Law is a system of rules that are meant to keep societies in order. These rules exist to protect people and property. A system of law has been around since the 1800s B.C. Every society has laws, whether they are officially set by a government or by society members, there is always a system of control in the animal species.
Laws are typically written and created by a legislation. They are enforced through a judicial system that includes police, court systems, confinement entities (prisons, jails, juvenile holding), and lawyers. In the United States the largest set of rules is laid out in the Unites States Constitution, a document written to make every man equal and the laws as fair as possible. Although the writers of the U.S. Constitution had good intentions, the amendments are not always carried out as they were intended. Some say the U.S. system of law is horrible and others claim it is one of the most fair in the world. Perhaps it is those who get caught up in the legal system, in any country, who can most candidly speak about the fairness of law. While many believe that breaking the law is about ethics, it is not always the unethical person who gets trapped inside the legal system.
Law and Justice
Intertwined with the law there are concepts of justice. One tenant of creating laws is to enact justice on someone who has broken the law or stepped out of line and stopped following the rules. Broken laws equals punishment. Law, crime, and punishment are all part of the other. Lawyers, also called attorneys, are men and women who "practice" law, meaning they work to uphold the constitutional rights of members of society when they are in trouble for breaking the rules. It also means that lawyers work in other areas of legal practice to keep the laws in order, such as contract law. A lawyer can write a contract or review one to make sure that the laws are being followed and the contract in enforceable. Because the law covers everything in society in some way, the legal system is large, and the scope of practice for lawyers covers many different topics. These topics are broken into smaller systems of legal practice. These smaller categories of legal practice are family law, divorce law, intellectual law, property law, international law, tort law, constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal law. All of these laws serve together to create a web that keeps society in place.
As society continues to grow, expand, and change, so do its laws. The governments have to stay abreast of new threats to society and they counter them by writing laws. As a punishment for breaking the law, many are sent to jail and prison. The U.S. has the largest prison system in the world and has incarcerated more men and women per capita than anywhere else. It is ironic that in the "land of the free" so many are imprisoned. The legal system disproportionately incarcerates black men as well as the poor and mentally ill. The U.S. has built a privatized system of incarcerations, allowing prisons to be for-profit, which only incentivizes incarcerations and denies a system of rehabilitation.
Most believe that society will crumble in a lawless system. There are those who believe all laws should be stripped, called Anarchists. For some, there are laws that are non-existent to others, such as Driving While Black or DWB, a system of racial stereotyping where black people, or people of color, are disproportionately pulled over for nothing but skin color. The state of Arizona just enacted a law in 2010 to allow racial profiling for illegal immigrants. These are breakdowns of the Constitution. Laws are suppose to protect each individual regardless, but man is the one who carries law out.
There are others who believe the system of law is just fine. Some believe that the law is not harsh enough, that the punishment must fit the crime, and you should not do the crime if you cannot handle the time. Crime and the law are closely interwoven.