This article was originally published on June 9, 2017 with Exposure Magazine.
It is disconcerting the amount of contradictions in the current state of public opinions regarding decision making in the criminal justice system. Evaluating your ability to view accused persons as innocent until proven guilty can jumpstart needed conversations and effectuate measurable growth on social justice issues like the overabundance of wrongful convictions or disproportionate arrests and unfair sentencing.
Most people are uncomfortably familiar with innocence projects which promote investigation into claims of wrongful convictions ultimately leading to the exoneration of convicted individuals. What is not as widely known is a new kind of innocence project promoting the cultural and social evolution of individual thinking regarding one’s ability to view an accused person as innocent until proven guilty.
You’ve heard the old adage, “change begins with you.” This new kind of innocence project is equalized with this mantra. As much as one vote should matter in an election, one person’s ability to internalize, adopt and promote the “innocent until proven guilty” guarantee is similarly important. Comparatively, there is a recognized loss of faith in both political and justice systems that quickly stalls potential growth. When mainstream media predominantly promotes the views of celebrity and public figures, it affects your ability as an individual to question the value of your one vote, or your singular views. You may not even realize the impact this has, it could be subconsciously affecting you, but it translates into a domino-effect of group thinking. There is value in group-thinking and the promotion of ideas through groups idealizing similar views, but what if everyone mastered their own mindset and committed to accepting a single view that could truly change everything?
That’s what it means to internalize, adopt and promote the “innocent until proven guilty” guarantee. If you adopt this, and then get called upon to serve as a juror one day, you put power back into the constitutional guarantee the way it was meant to work. Then, slowly, less people are wrongfully convicted, more prosecutors are forced to only prosecute when proper, and social justice begins to turn the right corner.