Some people have noted that the plea-bargaining system pretty much eliminates any semblance of a fair trial: “Federal prosecutors and agents now have the power to manipulate the charges a suspect will face and, as a result, the sentences that suspect will serve.” I’ve tried previously to examine the perversion of the incentives in our current “justice” system, which FSK concisely summarizes thusly:
The procedural rules are biased in favor of the government. Therefore, even if not guilty, it’s in your best interests to accept a plea bargain.
I hate linking to articles that I find on the Reuters or AP news feeds on Yahoo (e.g., this one: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071119/ts_nm/usa_prisons_dc) for the same reason I hate linking to articles I find in the Detroit Free Press — they’re not permalinks, and there’s nothing worse than a blogpost full of stale links.
But prison reform is a topic that no politician will touch with a ten-foot pole. It’s practically a taboo to position oneself as anything other than draconian — the presumption is that all convicts are the worst, most degenerate members of society, all of whom pose immediate and substantial threats to the other, generally law-abiding members. A politician who stands in front of a crowd and declares, “I’m in favor of prison reform!” is understood by many to be jeopardizing their well-being.
I think this is further proof that they’re all moral defectives, because any moral agent would be concerned with a system as perverted as ours. From a paper via Pew Trusts, or the above (and probably stale) AP/Yahoo! News link:
- The number of Americans in prison has risen eight-fold since 1970, with little impact on crime but at great cost to taxpayers and society…
- More than 1.5 million people are now in U.S. state and federal prisons, and the number has risen each year from 196,429 in 1970, the report said. Another 750,000 people are in U.S. jails.
- “The massive incarceration of young males from mostly poor- and working-class neighborhoods, and the taking of women from their families and jobs, has crippled their potential for forming healthy families and achieving economic gains,”
If government is growing, then rights are becoming more scarce. That legislation is multiplying like proverbial rabbits, and the consequent skyrocketing prison population ought to be evidence enough that this statement is true.