Faith outside a religious context is an important factor that is rarely discussed. Whether it is modern media platforms or social media conversations, people seem to argue opinions based mostly on their perception of what actually happened.
Following an officer-involved shooting, people debate whether the cop should have used fatal force and how quickly the victim complied with orders.
Celebrity gossip often results in dozens of guesses about what actually happened behind the scenes. Public discussions often devolve into a tennis match of participants shouting random opinions about the issues.
Interestingly enough, the role of faith in the institutions around the issue is usually underestimated. As an example, consider the racial tensions between communities of color and law enforcement. Following an incident, it is normal to see people arguing perspectives on what really happened.
But if African Americans no longer have faith in the honesty and integrity of the local police force, the details of the actual event won’t change the response.
By the same token, if we don’t have faith that the local judges can act without bias, the trial seems like a waste of time. Faith in the institution is often the underlying reality that governs a person’s perspectives on specific issues or events.
That is why it is so concerning that our justice system in the United States exists within two clear tiers. Perhaps the clearest example of this difference is a comparison of the impact of certain drugs and the relative treatment within the criminal justice system.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, during the fiscal year 2019, 19,765 cases involving drug trafficking were reported nationwide. About 8.5 percent of those involved marijuana.
During the same year, the average sentence for marijuana trafficking was 31 months, and more than 89 percent spent some time in prison. That means more than 4,300 years of prison were handed down within a single year because of marijuana.
Interestingly enough, it is nearly impossible to find a single case of a person overdosing or otherwise dying directly due to weed use. This is not to say that the drug is safe, but there are many other drugs with much higher body counts.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 480,000 people die each year from cigarette smoking. About 41,000 of these deaths were caused by secondhand smoke. Why are so many people going to jail for weed while tobacco sellers enjoy comfortable free lives?
This is far from the only example of the two-tiered justice system. Upper-middle-class to wealthy white males routinely get minimal sentences for crimes as serious as rape. Bribing a government official is illegal, but make that payment a campaign contribution and everything is fine.
Placing dangerous chemicals in food at the grocery store is food tampering, which can result in prison. But including dangerous chemicals in the food production process to save money may result in a lawsuit and recall.
Faith in justice can only be maintained by a system based on fairness.
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