United States criminal justice system flowchart.

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Criminal justice professionals, such as police officers, corrections officers, crime scene investigators, attorneys, and judges have a variety of political opinions ranging from left to right. This is to be expected, since professionals in any field hold diverse ideas. But most professionals in criminal justice are constrained by the practicalities of their chosen field to avoid extreme positions. Their focus is on what works in everyday life, at a practical, concrete level.

Academics live in a much more sheltered environment. Many, though not all, academics who teach criminal justice lack practical experience as criminal justice professionals. As such, they can “afford” to be more radical in their political views because their views are not necessarily tested in a real-world setting. It is perfectly acceptable to be naive about evil in human nature if one is standing before a classroom or sitting in a room with other academics.

Recently I attended a criminal justice academic conference–not one of the national ones, but local. There were almost no criminal justice professionals in the audience, as one might expect–the audience was composed almost solely of academicians. There was one police officer who presented an excellent paper on police leadership as well as some interesting student papers. The academicians were focused, sadly, on the usual mumb0-jumbo quasi-Marxist theories of identity politics so popular in colleges and universities today. Instead of focusing on personal responsibility, the papers focused on social oppression as the cause of crime, and on race, class, and gender being the only determinants of personal identity and behavior. “Diversity” was interpreted in the narrow sense of gender and race, now and then with economic status interspersed. A true diversity of ideas (or even a true cultural diversity) was not celebrated–any deviation from the radical left wing determinism by race, class, and gender was considered unacceptable–a sign of racism, classism, or sexism.

The problem with such theories is that the ignore the fact that all human beings have freedom and dignity–and freedom includes the freedom to make wrong moral (and legal) choices. The criminal justice system preserves human dignity by affirming that crime is an evil against others, that it must not be tolerated by society, and that the guilty should pay for their crimes. Disparities in crime statistics regarding minorities are not necessarily due to oppression by the majority of a minority, but due to the breakdown of family and social order in some minority communities that leads children to have poor role models and thus to grow up with a vicious, rather than a virtuous, character. To deny a minority the right to be punished for wrongdoing or to always blame the majority for the minority’s crimes is to deny the minority freedom and dignity. It is to place a member of a minority outside the bounds of the universal human condition of “fallenness” and outside the knowledge of sin. Such a view, in effect, dehumanizes minorities. Police officers see this human fallenness on an everyday basis and do not care, in general, for making excuses for bad human behavior. Unless criminal justice academics remove their heads from their rear ends and examine the real world of the police or correction officer, lawyer, or judge, they will remain oblivious to reality–and criminal justice professionals and academics will remain permanently estranged.