In many ways, recent news reports demonstrate what is broken in the criminal justice system. Jails are overcrowded, fetid, and seemingly impervious to the promises that politicians make about cleaning them up or shutting them down. Corruption, like bread mold, takes root and permeates everything it touches. And trying to clean it up only reveals how well-established the problem really is.

A smuggling ring was recently broken up inside one jail, which included guards and a cook and several inmates. Weapons, tobacco, and drugs were brought into the facilities, in exchange for bribes paid to those who were sworn to uphold the law, not to violate it. The flow of contraband into jails is as old as jails themselves, but these arrests are a reminder of what we already knew: Jails are hard, dangerous places without corruption making them even worse.

An additional jury verdict, handed down in June of 2016, further indicates the problems within this correctional facility. During a contraband search in 2012, an inmate locked eyes with a guard. For this offense, he was made to bear a terribly heavy price.

In league with several other guards, the guard who locked eyes with a prisoner took that prisoner into a small cell and began a brutal beating. Once the beating was finished, and the broken bones and swelling had been administered to the prisoner for his terrible offense, false reports were created to suggest that the prisoner had injured an officer prior to the beating.

The prisoners in such a correctional facility never get the benefits of any doubts in situations where there is conflict between their words and those of a correctional officer. The prisoner is the one who broke the law or pled guilty to a crime, and in the eyes of many this means they can never again be trusted to be truthful about anything. And the guards know this, too.

The story that the prisoner–who was beaten by many guards at once–brought the attack on himself by injuring a guard was presented to the jury in the guards’ defense at trial. It only takes one juror with law enforcement sympathies to create a hung jury, which can then be repeated infinite times until the charges against the guards are dropped. Convincing twelve jurors to unanimously believe an inmate’s word over several guards telling the same story is nothing short of astounding.

The two cases reported here do not share any direct links between them, but viewing them together gives an unsettling picture of the conditions that exist. Guards accepted bribes in one instance, to look the other way as contraband meant to destabilize the facility was brought in. And during a search for such contraband–which was evidently getting in anyway–an inmate was singled out and subjected to a brutal beating, which was then covered up with a fabricated story which a jury rejected.Guards who do their jobs faithfully and honestly–and many of them do exist–are sullied by those who use abuse their authority. At the same time, inmates who tell the truth–and they do exist, too–are nearly always discounted by those who cannot believe that some guards act as criminals, themselves.

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