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by Peter Moskos

August 9, 2011

What is wrong the C.J. system

There's very little that strikes me as more absurd than offering or accepting a guilty plea for time served. It represents so much about what's wrong with the criminal justice system. And that's a lot.

If you're guilty, then it's a travesty of justice because you get to go home.

If you're innocent, it's an even worse travesty. But you get to go home.

Snoop from "The Wire" just took such a plea. From the Sun:
She was sentenced to seven years in prison [for heroin dealing], with all of the time suspended except for the five months she has already served while awaiting trial, most of it spent at home, under electronic monitoring.
Pearson, 31, explaining her decision to take a deal. She repeatedly said she would have been found "not guilty" at trial, but that she couldn't wait for the proceeding, which could have been years in coming.
Now I don't think she innocent. But that doesn't matter. Why offer this plea? Because the Office of the State's Attorney has its own issues. And they want their caseload reduced. And they judge their own stats on guilty pleas.

What would it take to have a justice system where the accused actually had a timely trial and the guilty actually get punished? We'd need more courtrooms, judges, and lawyers on both sides. That would take money. Lot's of money. And that's not going to happen any time soon.

So we continue with a criminal justice that is dedicated to processing the maximum number of people with as little use of court resources as possible. Mostly it means thousand of people getting caught up in its slow wheels until they accept a plea. Call it what you will, it's not justice.


Marc said...

"What would it take to have a justice system where the accused actually had a timely trial and the guilty actually get punished? We'd need more courtrooms, judges, and lawyers on both sides. That would take money. Lot's of money. And that's not going to happen any time soon."

I suspect that reducing the number of victimless crimes on the books would leave us with a surplus.

Anonymous said...

Jaywalking is victimless, heroin dealing is not. Now, legalizing heroin would eliminate the crime and proper health treatment and education would lessen the victims.

Dumb, immature, violent, screwed from the get go individuals engaged in messy 'turf' wars and coercion of neighborhoods trough the drug trade......that's not a victimless crime.

It's the same with the death penalty (regardless of what side of the debate). Is it really a deterrent if you're waiting years and years and appealing? I say we start shooting those found guilty - immediately- in front of everyone right there in the court room. Now there's a deterrent.

America: Home of the avoiding tough conversationalists.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the justice system. I am endlessly given reasons why plea deals are so sweet for the criminal. I'm tired of looking victim's in the eye and saying I'm sorry. I feel they are owed this even when these decisions are out of my hands. Sorry anonymous, I don’t feel shooting them in the courtroom is the answer but I will enjoy that fantasy the next time a child molester gets off with only five years

PCM said...

And let's not forget that before police and a revamped criminal code (I'm talking pre-19th century) you could get executed for just about any crime. It didn't actually solve the crime problem. Not to mention, and you can call me a softy, that I have a problem with executing innocent people in a system that makes mistakes. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Your comments have illustrated my point (I'm against the death penalty honestly) in that there are multiple useless de-fanged "punishments" in the system. Pleading is one of them. Giving someone the death penalty would another: Both fail to serve the public's needs at large. Both require buttloads of money and public policy changes to occur. The fact is imho that the current justice system has rusted out, and the working bits have been sold off to the highest privatized bidder. Sweeping changes need to be made, but they won't, because those in power actually have little control over anything.

Unknown said...

Sorry to leave an unrelated comment, but I couldn’t find any contact info for you. I’m wondering if you’d be interested in a guest post. Please drop me an e-mail. Thanks!

PCM said...

Can't find contact info? Really? Click on Vita. It's easier to find my email address than yours.

{nUtTyPrOfFeSsOr} said...

Just came across your blog-very nice.

As a high school teacher and general personal Freedom/Liberty personality, i think the punishment should fit the crime. Steal bread, chop off a hand. Murder, hang 'em or a 35 cent rifle bullet. Rape, lose your nads. Dealing drugs is difficult but i think maybe chain gang labor would be appropriate, while building housing for the poor, for 10 years.

These tactics would bring the shock and awe into a society that thinks they deserve everything for working for nothing. Wake up and do something america (don't even get me started on generations of welfare!)

PCM said...

Sounds like you'd be a big supporter of harsh sharia law. I'm not.

Anonymous said...

Dealing heroin is a victimless crime. Many people can't separate the effects of black market violence from the effects of drug use.