In biases distorted their assessment of the
In Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice, Adam Benforado suggests that the injustice in the legal system is deeply rooted in the minds of individuals. Through numerous studies, pieces of research, real world situations, and historical events, Benforado underscores that the justice system is not as impartial as it claims to be due to human bias. Accepting that humans are incapable of making unbiased decisions, raising awareness about behavioural science research, and reducing the justice system’s dependence on human judgement will truly better the way the criminal justice system operates. As the novel commences, Benforado asserts that every individual looks at the world a certain way and believes that other individuals will agree with their stance. Benforado expounds this assertion as he claims, “We operate under the illusion that reality enters our brain through our senses unfiltered.” However, that is not always the case. When faced with conflicting ideas, many people try to determine the fallacies of the opposing viewpoint instead of questioning their own ideas. Thus, this idea of being perpetually correct remains. This mindset greatly impacts the fairness of the criminal justice system as “our shared backgrounds and experiences shape how we perceive seemingly objective facts.” Demonstrated in the Scott v. Harris case, these varying perspectives altered who the participants thought the culprit was. An African American woman was convinced that the police force was the culprit whereas a white man believed the culprit was Victor Harris himself. Their inherent affiliations and biases distorted their assessment of the case. These biases present the injustice of the justice system as a system in which “white men are overrepresented almost two to one state appellate benches, with nearly all other groups underrepresented.” The justice system which is supposed to allow all individuals to receive fair treatment under the law is flawed. Thus, decisions caused a concentrated group of like-minded individuals to all have identical viewpoints on the topic. Injustice becomes entangled in the justice system because decisions are commonly made based on subjective opinions. Yet, the injustice found in the justice system is not only rooted in human bias, but also in general human behavior. Benforado utilizes behavioral science research to highlight the reasoning behind false confessions from innocent people. During an investigation, police officers used the Reid Technique to question suspects. However, this technique “focuses on battering a suspect… until he fesses up” and “fails to guard against false confessions but actually appears to encourage them.” The suspect begins to grow weary of the investigator’s constant badgering and thus, pleads guilty despite being innocent. Due to this research, Benforado was able to propose a feasible solution to this unjust practice. By proposing that investigators should find out information rather than trying to prove suspects are guilty, Benforado suggests that investigators should work towards “reaching an accurate account of what happened.” Through this research, Benforado was not only able to understand why innocent people pleaded guilty, but he was also able to create an achievable solution that could help the justice system prosecute actual criminals. Indeed, judges, police officers, jurors, and lawyers are necessary to the justice system; Benforado, however, believes that decreasing the system’s reliance on human judgment will increase the amount of just decisions. Connecting the justice system to baseball, he claims, “Baseball teams now that once picked players based on the intuitions of scouts now rely increasingly on statistical analyses to field winning teams.” By revealing that less reliance on human perception yields better results in baseball, Benforado suggests that the justice system should rely more on technology instead of human perception. For instance, virtual trials could eliminate bias from judges, jurors, and lawyers as “they are forced to focus on what the witness actually says because they don’t know if the defendant is black or white, slim or obese, old or young, and attractive or unattractive.” The virtual trials would allow the trial to be conducted as fairly as possible by eliminating prejudice. Uncovering the unfairness of the justice system, Benforado presents solutions which will make the system become more just.