Our Justice System Over the Past 400 Years

How America’s justice system has changed is a very fascinating topic which can lead to many years of exploration and historical study. Our country’s full of fact and folklore regarding criminal justice. Below we have provided you with a quick snapshot of the key events.

First Settlers

The settlers that came to our shores first brought with them England’s common law. It was based on a premise known as Mens Reas, which means guilty mind, along with the Catholic Church’s influence. There was a lot of irony in this since a lot of colonists left England because of religious persecution.

William Penn

The colonial laws stayed the norm until the reform of the criminal justice system was promoted by William Pen before the American Revolution. Since he was a Quaker, he embraced the need for implementing practices that were more humane to the system, which included constructing reasonable criminal housing. Following the Revolution, the Constitution is what reigned over all of the freedoms and rights of the people. People who were innocent were given greater protections, some jurisdictions eliminated physical punishment, and a lot of prisons were built.

Civil War & Reconstruction

This is when the next big upheaval came. The south and north saw differently on equal rights and prisoners’ treatment since many of them were slaves who were freed. The nation’s focus changed again as a lot of immigrants came to the country. There was an escalation of social problems and we established rehabilitation.

Theodore Roosevelt

He was a big reformer back in the early part of the 1900s and he was the reason why a lot of the progressive ideas got rolling. This is where we saw the creation of things like the FBI, new laws for sentencing and the system for juvenile justice. This system continued evolving through our history’s next stages – WWI, Prohibition, Great Depression and finally WWII.

Post War

Everyone was happy when the wars end. But this saw another problem – war protests, drug use and race riots are what we saw in the 60s and 80s. The justice system had a backlash toward the tougher sentences as well as the system being expanded.

A lot of what we see today’s still rooted in getting tough on the problem of crime that’s given us the prisons that are too crowded and concerns that are related. It’s time for the system to change again so that justice can be fair to everyone again.