Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Insulation Breakdown: Realities of our Justice System are Shocking

By Spike Bradford

Having worked as an auto mechanic, I often think of criminal and juvenile justice issues the way a mechanic would: as an interacting web of systems. After all, a car is simply a series of systems (ignition, electrical, drive, etc.). The mechanical term that has been in my mind lately is “insulation breakdown.” This usually involves stripped wires or damaged circuits or anything that allows current to go where it’s not supposed to. In short (pun intended), this is a bad thing.

Working in criminal and juvenile justice reform-minded research, I experience “insulation breakdown” of a different sort on a daily basis; a good kind of “insulation breakdown.” You see, unlike many that work in my field, I am not from a disproportionately impacted community of color or close to people who have been negatively affected by what I know to be our broken, arbitrary and institutionally racist systems of justice. I am a middle-class, highly educated, Volvo-driving, NPR-listening white guy. In other words, I’m insulated. Insulated in a way that most Americans are when it comes to understanding criminal and juvenile justice in our country.