Table of Contents
The two books have one thing in common. They both focus on the issue of wrongful conviction in criminal justice. The Race to Incarcerate by Mark Mauer is about the obsession that America has with prison and punishment. The book also talks about the problem of unfair conviction in the criminal justice system. It provides technical assistance and information to individuals and organizations that are interested in promoting alternatives to incarceration. The growth of the prison population is fueled by various issues, such as focus on the wrong factors while gathering evidence rather than addressing the main issues that point to the real cause of a crime. The Innocent Man by John Grisham describes the misguided and aggressive mission of Ada police officers to solve the murder of Carter. It shows how unreliable witnesses, flimsy evidence, and forced confessions were used to convict Fritz and Williamson wrongfully. The two books are related, and a lot of injustices in Grisham’s work can be explained by the points raised in Mauer’s research.
Analysis of the Two Books
According to Mauer (2006), the number of prisoners has been increasing because the criminal justice system focuses on drug abuse and gang members rather than on addressing real causes of crime. Advocates of the initiative to associate most crimes with drug dealers support and encourage it because they consider it the only option of keeping dangerous people off the street and setting an example to those who may be interested in pursuing criminal activities (94). A critical analysis shows that this approach is not effective because most people use drugs due to various reasons such as depression or loss. In the case of Williamson and Fritz, they used drugs because the latter had lost his wife and was forced to take care of his daughter, and the baseball career of the former had ended prematurely due to an injury that forced him out of the professional league (Grisham 2010, 112-113). These two cases show that although the continuous use of drugs can result in criminal activities, it does not necessary mean that all drug users are criminals.
Mauer (2006) points out that incarceration is not a solution to reducing crime rates, and get-tough policies do not help in any way. Research shows that crime rates have increased and decreased, while the number of prisoners has been continuously rising. These findings show that a reduction of crime rates is not caused by the use of incarceration, but other factors that focus on real issues that lead to criminal activities. Most people who are incarcerated as a result of get-tough policies are not perpetrators of major crimes such as serial killing and drive-by shooting. Most prisoners are petty thieves and drug addicts who support their habits by distributing drugs at the lowest level of the drug network (136).
This scenario shows that drug lords walk free on the streets while petty drug distributors fill the prisons. The criminal justice system is corrupt and receives its share of the drug money, and that is the main reason why drug lords are not arrested and prosecuted. This point is evident in Grisham’s book because the police decided to arrest Williamson and Fritz, who were petty drug users and had no record of murdering or harassing women. The criminal justice system failed to consider a real murderer as a suspect. During the investigation of Carter’s murder, forty-four people submitted their fingerprints for analysis and Gore’s prints were not among them, even though he had been arrested previously for harassing women and was the last person to see Carter alive (Grisham 2010, 208). This situation clearly shows that the police were doing business with Gore, and that is why, they covered his criminal activity by picking Williamson and Fritz to take a fall for a crime they had not committed
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Injustice in Grisham’s Book
Glen Gore, who was an acquaintance of Carter, was the last person to have seen her alive, and the police did not consider him to be a prime suspect. Gore had a criminal record of harassing women, and it was clear that he could be a potential criminal even if he was not the last person to have seen her alive. The police should have considered him as a suspect. When they interviewed Gore, he claimed that Carter asked him for a dance at Coach Light because Williamson made her feel uncomfortable. However, the police did not question the fact that no one else had seen Williamson at Coach Light that night (Grisham 2010, 219-221). Mauer (2006) points out that innocent people and petty offenders are arrested and taken to prison, while real criminals are free. Most of the prisoners are people who were wrongfully convicted, and they are serving sentences that they do not deserve. The criminal justice system focuses on wrong issues failing to address the real problem causing a continuous increase in the prison population and crime rates (142).
Another injustice case was the fact that the police coerced confession from Williamson. The latter did not write or sign the document, so the former used a fake one to arrest him for a crime he had not committed. Fritz and Williamson were detained without any evidence that they had ever met Carter, and police officers claimed the two had been suspects for over a year. Detectives did not explain why they considered Fritz and Williamson as key suspects in the mystery of Carter’s murder (Grisham 2010, 256). Mauer (2006) points out that the criminal justice system has failed to address real issues by critically analyzing the situation and establishing the major cause of a crime before prosecuting suspected criminals. Police officers should have clear evidence that links an individual to a certain crime before they can rule out that he or she is guilty (123). Faking documents to use them as evidence is a great injustice, which results in many innocent people being punished for crimes they have not committed.
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The third injustice is Fritz being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, while Williamson was sentenced to death. The latter could not be present during his trial because he experienced anger outbursts and was forced to stay in the county jail cell. The prosecution and the defense did not question his competency, even though he had a history of a mental illness (Grisham 2010, 374-376). After ten years in jail, they were exonerated by DNA evidence that proved they were innocent of the murder charges. Williamson received irreversible and deep psychological scars while he was in prison. He was treated for personality disorders and manic depression. Although the DNA evidence proved the two had been convicted wrongfully, the state of Oklahoma and county officials failed to admit they had made errors and threatened to re-arrest Williamson (Grisham 2010, 390). Mauer (2006) points out that the prison population will keep growing if the criminal justice system does not implement new ways of addressing the process of handling criminal activities. If the number of innocent people will keep increasing, crime rates will not decrease because it means real perpetrators will continue disturbing society (112).
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A synthesis of the two books shows that the problem of wrongful conviction is a major concern that should be addressed by the criminal justice system. The number of prisoners is increasing, and most of them are innocent people punished for crimes they have not committed. The justice system should address problems in the process of gathering evidence to make sure crime rates decrease by punishing real criminals. The Race to Incarcerate and The Innocent Man are interesting books that show some problems experienced by the criminal justice department and how they can be solved.