It is the view of many residents that our criminal justice system is failing us, the V.I. community. That is a very dangerous perception. I have warned, in my previous writings on the subject, that the perception that we cannot rely on the police to investigate and gather pertinent evidence of crimes and criminal activities is very damaging.
The following perceptions all have sound basis in our experience:
— that the Police personnel are not doing their work in an objective and professional manner, by searching for and arresting criminal suspects;
— that the V.I. Justice Department is failing in recruiting competent attorneys who can ably prosecute successfully criminal cases.
— that the judges in our court refuse to punish the guilty suspects to the full extent of law, because of family, political and other ties/
The residents of this community are losing faith in the criminal justice system and will be forced to seek justice by other means.
The recent killing of a rape suspect who was identified by the rape victim as someone she knew is only one of many possible actions that will be taken by those who have lost faith in the system. People who are victims of crime and receive little or no help from the system — starting with the Police, the first responder to criminal activities and crimes — are determined to obtain justice; they will seek justice from some other source.
When they go to the Justice Department they are faced with insensitive treatment and bureaucratic delays, similar to the Police Department.
When cases do reach the court and the jury system which is supposed to be made up of peers of the defendant, if and when the jury finds a defendant guilty, the judge appears to find all kind of reasons not to apply the full weight of the law in sentencing. There are many theories as to the reasons some people get light sentences or no sentence at all. Whatever the cause or causes that justice is not meted out does promote the perception that the criminal justice system is failing to provide justice in our society. We must reverse that perception by promoting justice for all.
How can we as a society reverse the perception that the criminal justice system is failing us? By being proactive and demanding more accountability from our public servants, those elected and those appointed. The press can and should play a more aggressive role in highlighting the deficiencies in the criminal justice system. We need to identify those public servants that are neglectful or incompetent and demand their replacement. We need to expose and accuse all those who fail to provide the services we are entitled to receive in all three branches of government.
Democracy requires vigilance and activism of the governed to be truly successful. Do we deserve better government? If you believe that we do, then let us together work for better government; let us promote justice and integrity in our representatives in government, both elected and appointed.
J. J. Estemac
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