From The Tao Of Criminal Defense Trial Lawyering, No Balm In Gilead:

Up through law school, we’re taught that the American criminal justice system is a wonderful thing. The organized bar—the ABA, local and state bar associations—pushes the same propaganda. It’s a lie.

The truth is that, while it may be better than any other system yet created, the U.S. criminal justice system objectively sucks. Factually-innocent people get punished every day. Pleas are coerced. Insane people get punished for doing insane things. Crappy lawyers take people’s lives in their hands. Children get treated as adults. Adults with the minds of children get treated as adults. Wealthy defendants get more justice than poor defendants. [emphasis added]

That’s a Tiger Woods crazy-long list of serious problems for a system that might be the best in the world. Worse still, it’s non-exhaustive, easily modifiable by the phrase “including, but not limited to”. So are we the best?

Countries with no death penalty remove the possibility of factually-innocents being executed. And most of the world is ahead of the ole US of A in recognizing that children are not simply shorter adults, especially when it comes to their criminal justice systems. Some of the other problems listed (e.g., the wealthy/powerful set is treated less severely for the same behaviors/crimes) are likely universal.

But might there be other measures of which system is the best? You could try taking a look at the results. The U.S. beats the pants off the rest of the world in at least one category, and it’s a purely objective measurement: total number incarcerated.

Less than 5% of the world’s population, we incarcerate about 25% of all people in prisons and jails… everywhere. There are only a few possible reasons:

  1. Americans are an inherently more criminal people than those of other nations.
  2. Americans get caught committing crimes significantly more than others.
  3. Americans are overpunished.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  (We’re number one…we’re number one…we’re number one…)