Criminal Law

Crim. Law Journal Summer 2019, Vol. 19, Issue 3

A welcome Fork in the Familiar road: restorative Justice as Diverting the path of Schools to Prisons

By Elica M-Zadeh*

I. Introduction

If you could travel back one hundred odd years, what would you imagine criminal justice in the future to look like? Villemard’s Vision, En L’an 2000 ("in the year 2000"), is a series of French works from 1910 depicting the imagined scientific advancements of the year 2000.1 "In Pursuit of a Smuggler," as pictured above, portrays law enforcement with webbed wings and pointed revolvers in hot pursuit of a flying felon.2 Alas, at the head of 2019, short of taking to the skies to expand our legal horizons, we find ourselves still in the epoch of humans in cramped cages under the guise of criminal justice.3

As humans, we have a tendency to over inflate our capacity for change. We believe that tomorrow promises an end to school shootings, an answer to mass incarceration, and a female president. This is not to say that, at a macrocosmic level, we do not possess the faculty for meaningful change, but rather, our ability to embrace that faculty is frustrated by the zeitgeist—the spirit of the time. In the hollow chambers of our antiquated courtrooms, the spirit is, and always has been, characterized by a fear of the unfamiliar, and a misguided contentment with the status quo. Sticking to "what works" has been the hallmark of the 19th century and beyond,4 but only insofar as what works—locking up delinquents with sentences disproportionate to the crime5—is what has worked for the privileged, while demonstratively hampering both indigents and ethnic minorities (particularly African-American males).6 And yet, the system continues to exercise an overhaul-inertia.7 Indeed, Congress admits that the Federal Rules of Evidence, for example, are rooted "more in history and experience than in logic."8 This means that, in terms of realizing social, political, and judicial advancements over the next one hundred years, we are, quite simply, getting in our own way.

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