By Philip R. Goldsmith
The Inquirer has performed a public service by shining a bright light on a wide swath of government that is rarely exposed or held accountable - the criminal justice system. As president of an organization whose mission is to make our communities safer from gun violence, I was disheartened to be reminded once again of how dysfunctional the city's system is.
There are many causes of the plague of gun violence in Philadelphia, as well as in other parts of the state: poverty, a lack of adequate job opportunities, the breakdown of the family, the flood of illegal guns, lax gun laws, and a lack of common purpose and coordination among governmental organizations.
CeaseFirePA has been working hard to improve our handgun laws in Pennsylvania, whether it be through measures that require handgun owners to let the police know when their guns have been lost or stolen, or by closing a loophole that allows terrorists to buy guns in our state.
But we are also committed to bringing more accountability to the players in the criminal justice process, including police, prosecutors, the defense bar, and judges.
The public shouldn't have to wait for a newspaper to publish a series on what is occurring or not occurring in our courtrooms. In the era of the Internet, there should be much more frequent report cards on what is happening in our courts. The statistics cry out for more regular disclosure of what is going on and why - case by case, day by day.
District Attorney-elect Seth Williams was right to single out gun violence as a major priority, and it's encouraging that he has already begun to work on the issue.
We are not naive enough to think that the justice system's problems can be solved overnight. The criminal justice process is governed by disparate groups with competing interests, and it has to uphold due process and the presumption of innocence. It also is shaped by a shadow government made up of the local political parties, which have much say on who runs our court system.
CeaseFirePA will continue to work for more commonsense safeguards to rid our communities of illegal guns, but we will also shine a bright light on the court system. Justice should be blind, but our citizens should have a clear vision of what's going on and who should be held responsible for any disarray.
It's time for all the players who profess love for our city to realize that our runaway court system is dragging our city down and contributing to the bloodshed in our streets.