While in jail awaiting trial, Ralph Johnson and nineteen other inmates sent a letter of protest to those outside the walls. They protested the fact that they had been in jail from nine to sixteen months, living in barbaric conditions, while they waited to answer the criminal accusations against them. Their protest went beyond the condition of the cells in which they were forced to live and included what imprisonment had really cost them: loss of jobs, removal from their homes, and the fear of permanent alienation from their families. Their letter ended: "It is of little or no consequence to be found innocent after losing everything, due to these injustices."
A civilized society must answer for the injustices that are perpetrated in its name. The thousands of Ralph Johnsons throughout the country are the victims of a system which promises "innocence until proven guilty" as its standard. But persons sitting in jail are not considered sufficiently "worthy" of concern for their complaints to generate change. The popular and "worthy" victims are those in the community who fall prey to the burglar, robber, rapist, mugger, or murderer. Nevertheless, the system has been as unable to protect the legitimate interests of the community as it has been to protect those charged with crime. Attempts at change have resulted in the patching together of procedures which are not capable of bearing the weight and burden that the twentieth century imposes and that the twenty- first promises. Procedures are not ends in themselves but were designed to serve goals, and it is the goals that must be preserved.
What is not appreciated is that the fabric of American society is inextricably bound to the fate of the criminal justice system. The inability of the system to protect the rights of men, whether victim or accused, is the precursor to the destruction of the rights that have contributed greatly to that which is good in America.
Every aspect of our national life is interwoven with the criminal justice system. The ability of men to function freely is secure only in the knowledge that the law and its institutions stand ready to ensure the privacy, safety, and security of each person. When rights are infringed, free men must be able to rely upon the law to restrain such infringement. Without belief in the law as the means of social control, each man would become a judge and