Or, another way to put it is that it works great for a privileged few while shitting on the rest of us.
The way we approach criminal justice in the U.S., as well as many other nations, is a lot like how we're approaching the so-called "war on terrorism," and they ultimately fail for the same reasons. It doesn't take a lot of research or general thought to realize that bombing the shit out of villages, towns, cities, and entire nations because there might be some "terrorists" there only serves to create more of those who have been labeled as such by the state. If a foreign nation destroyed your home, killed your family members, poisoned your land and water, and generally completely ruined your life, how would you respond?
Why do you think we've gone from Al-Qaeda to ISIS? Organizations like this only get more extreme and violent the more we, you know, bomb the shit out of other people's countries, not seeming to give a single fuck how many civilians die.
The issue of crime is similar. Crime and "terrorism" (when it's committed by people and not by the state) come out of suffering, desperation, poverty, trauma, and anger. All of these things are made worse by violence such as bombings and police brutality.
Attempts to get "tough on crime" in the U.S. has only created more of it. Black men thrown into prison for minor crimes have families who depend on them. Latina women arrested and deported by ICE have families who depend on them. With families and communities torn apart by police and prisons, poverty worsens. Sons and daughters of incarcerated and deported parents turn to gangs, drug dealing, and general crime out of desperation and despair. The trauma of growing up around the violence of both police and desperate, impoverished civilians makes holding a job more difficult and increases their chances of turning to violence themselves.
At best, our justice system segregates people further by race and class, pushing criminal activity into already-impoverished areas and away from the rich, who believe (or pretend to believe) that this is actually a reduction in crime and reward politicians and police for sweeping it under the rug. Meanwhile, poor communities of color suffer more with each passing year, each passing generation.
Those who have pointed out this problem, of course, are met with what I consider to be the core of conservative ideology, which includes neoliberalism. This is the idea that those who suffer deserve it. The poor deserve to be poor. The addicted deserve to be addicted (and die of overdose). Those killed by police deserved it. Those arrested and thrown in jail are automatically guilty simply by the fact that they'd been arrested.
This mass blaming of the victims of poverty, created and fueled by capitalism, allows conservatives and liberals alike to maintain the status quo that funnels more resources away from the poor and into the pockets of the rich every year. The only way to truly reduce and eventually end what we think of as most "crime" is to end poverty. This, however, means ending the wealthy class and abolishing capitalism.
Abolishing or defunding the police has become the line among leftists and even "progressive" liberals, and while the fact that this is even on the table at all suddenly after being unthinkable for so long astounds me, make no mistake - it's not enough. The entire justice system needs to be uprooted and replaced with one that is, well, a real system of justice. This means abolishing prisons, capitalism, and likely changing many aspects of our government structure, if any of it can be saved at all.
Yes, this is going to be difficult and take either a lot of time or a massive and inevitably violent revolution. I have my doubts that those benefitting most from capitalism will ever peacefully relinquish their power, even when threatened with a mass uprising, as they are now. But if you truly don't like crime, poverty, and human suffering and want to reduce it as much as possible, this is the only logical path. Settling for less means settling for pain, death, injustice, and exploitation. And why would you?
If you think it's impossible because something something humans are bad, then I can only assume you're either one of the people benefitting from this system that causes so much unnecessary death and suffering or you hope you will someday. And if that's the case, then I hate you.