This week our fantastic summer legal intern, Cristen Thayer, talks about why she supports the ACLU. There are many reasons to support the ACLU - this is Cristen's reason.
I have always found it disheartening that the people with the least amount of power in this country are often abused by the system, which is exactly what the Bill of Rights was intended to curtail. My undergraduate degree was in criminal justice, and ever since I was introduced to all the inherent problems with the criminal justice system, I have been interested in how one can combat these dysfunctions given that they are so thoroughly disregarded by much of society. When it comes to crime control in this country, most turn a blind eye based on the assumption that as long as the government is “tough on crime” and hell-bent on getting all the “bad guys” off our streets then there is nothing more to worry about.
But there is plenty more to worry about. There are major issues with our justice system and we have to address them responsibly. Our country's archaic practice of condemning certain convicted felons to death is one example of these problems. Such an approach stems from the dehumanizing of anyone associated with criminal culture. The view out there that certain people in our society can, and should, have their fundamental civil and human rights violated merely because they are in the criminal justice system is wrong and it is counterproductive.
More broadly, our country's tireless and exclusive focus on ever-harsher punishments needs to be challenged; in no way does it address the extremely complex social problems that affect crime. This is especially true when it comes to our drug laws, which have done little except put thousands of people—often nonviolent people—in prison. In the end, we need to reassess the way we currently view crime and come up with a better approach—one that actually helps the problem and doesn't merely lock up a major portion of our society as a knee-jerk reaction to sensationalized crimes.
The ACLU's protection of marginalized groups of society from unfair and illegal governmental treatment is the reason I am here. People should not passively accept and support mistreatment of these “undesirables”, even criminals, just because they are powerless and unpopular. As long as there are groups out there like the ACLU fighting for everyone's rights and liberties, I am confident that slowly but surely we'll make positive steps towards creating a more enlightened and just society.