Before I delve into my own personal story of my entanglement with the American legal system, I am going to give you some facts. These are not opinions, hypothesis surmises, or conjecture, they are cold hard facts. If you disagree with any of my facts, I invite you to get on Google and fact check this blog. If you still disagree with any of these facts, please comment on this blog and/or email me.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, outstripping Russia, Cuba, Rwanda, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Though America is home to only about one-twentieth of the world’s population, we house almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Since the mid 1970s, American prison populations have boomed, multiplying sevenfold while the population has increased by only 50 percent.
Every day, thousands of Americans languish in prison due to wrongful convictions. Even worse, right now, this second, anywhere from 40,000 to possibly over 100,000 people in U.S. prisons have never actually committed a crime. The average time served in US prisons for these people who have never committed a crime is more than nine years
The first reason that you are more likely to go to prison in the United States than any other country in the world is that we have 5,000 prisons. That’s more than we have universities. Prisons are there to make money. Prisons are not there to rehabilitate anybody. In order to make money, prisons need to stay full and right now they are full to overcapacity.
Once you get into the court system, it’s no longer justice. The District Attorney has all the power. If you get arrested for anything, and you go before the court, the District Attorney will say if you plead guilty, I will give you a lot less time. The American judicial and criminal system is not a justice system. It is a deal-making system.
Presently, approximately 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the U.S. The prison population is poor. If you don’t have money, and you have a public defender you’re going to take a plea bargain. The district attorney’s job has nothing to do with justice. It has to do with convictions. District Attorneys’ job performance are measured on convictions and plea bargains are convictions. It doesn’t matter if the judge believes the person is innocent, if the defendant has plead guilty, he is going to jail.
As an aside, the behemoth political issue in the national spotlight right now because of all the school shootings is the debate about automatic weapons. I have an easy way to get the laws changed on automatic weapons. Have all the young black men and hispanic men start buying automatic weapons. If that were to happen, Congress and States would change the laws immediately regardless of the NRA. Think about it.
Approximately 13 million Americans are arrested every year. One-third of the total women incarcerate in the world are in the United States. Defendant’s in America are not innocent until proven guilty. Prisons don’t work. They have an 85 percent recidivism rate.
Because of over criminalization, there is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. The United States now has some 300,000 federal regulations, and this long spool of burdensome and complex red tape grows every year. What’s more, there are about 4,500 federal criminal statutes on the books carrying fines or prison terms for offenders. There are so many regulations and criminal statutes on the books that the average American more likely than not commits three felonies a day, and the great preponderance of them are not even aware they are breaking the law. That is, not until a federal agency begins an investigation and they are indicted.
Doctor Floyd Ferris, in Ayan Rand’s Atlas Shrugged told Hank Reardon, a proud producer who had earned the ire of crony special interests and government officials, that “there’s no way to rule innocent men.”The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them,” said Ferris. “One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” Fiction has become reality.
The constitutional right afforded a defendant in America that he or she should be considered innocent until proven guilty doesn’t exist anymore. The system now works that upon arrest or indictment the defendant is guilty and most prove their innocence.
So we put people in prisons but our prisons don’t work. They are built on revenge not rehabilitation. When prisoners get out they are going to need need housing, jobs, and something to eat, and training to help get them back into society. Prison doesn’t prepare prisoners on how to get any of these things. Ex-felons, like victims of Jim Crow, are a stigmatized underclass, excluded from voting, juries, jobs, housing, education, and public benefits. arrests are far more likely to result in felony charges: Twenty years ago, only three eighths of arrests resulted in felony charges, but today more than half do. Over the past few decades, prosecutors have grown tougher and more consistent. Today we have a permanent second-class status for ex-cons.
The prosecutorial side of things are even more mind boggling. Prosecutor’s in the U.S. are afforded what is called “Prosecutorial Immunity”. Prosecutorial immunity is the absolute immunity that prosecutors in the United States have in initiating a prosecution and presenting the state’s case. Prosecutors cannot face civil lawsuits for prosecutorial abuses, no matter how severe They can break the law to arrest somebody and are completely immune from any civil liability. Prosecutors are sheathed in protective armor while they pursue criminal convictions.
Prosecutors are generally entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability under the federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for actions, taken in their role as prosecutors, that may have violated the rights of a criminal defendant. Absolute immunity is exactly what it sounds like—a blanket and unconditional grant of protection from civil liability even in cases of absolute intention misconduct or fraud in order to secure a conviction or plea bargain.
The criminal-justice system and prisons are big-government institutions. They are manipulated by special interests such as prison guards’ unions, and they consume huge shares of most states’ budgets. Cities’ avarice tempts police to arrest and jail too many people inorder to collect fines, fees, tickets, and the like. The Department of Justice found in its report following the Michael Brown shooting in Missouri, “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.”.
Historically, the point of criminal punishment was to condemn the wrong, humble the wrongdoer, induce him to make amends and learn his lesson, and then welcome him back. The punishment fell on the criminal, not on his family or friends, and he went right back to work. Now we warehouse large numbers of criminals, in idleness and at great expense. By exiling them, often far away, prison severs them from their responsibilities to their families and communities, not to mention separating them from opportunities for gainful work. This approach is hugely disruptive, especially when it passes a tipping point in some communities and exacerbates the number of fatherless families. And much of the burden falls on innocent women and children, who lose a husband, boyfriend, or father as well as a breadwinner.
There is evidence that prison turns people into career criminals. On the one hand, it cuts prisoners off from families, friends, and neighbors, who give them reasons to follow the law. Responsibilities as husbands and fathers are key factors that tame young men’s wildness and encourage them to settle down: One longitudinal study found that marriage may reduce reoffending by 35 percent. But prison makes it difficult to maintain families and friendships; visiting in person is difficult and time-consuming, prisons are often far away, and telephone calls are horrifically expensive.
Additionally, prison does much to draw inmates away from lawful work. In the month before their arrest, roughly three quarters of inmates were employed, earning the bulk of their income lawfully. Many were not only taking care of their children but helping to pay for rent, groceries, utilities, and health care. But prison destroys their earning potential. Prisoners lose their jobs on the outside. Felony convictions also disqualify ex-cons from certain jobs, housing, student loans, and voting. Spending a year or more in prison reduces the odds of post-prison employment by 24 percent and increases the odds of living on food stamps by 5 percent.
Conversely, prisons are breeding grounds for crime. Instead of working to support their own families and their victims, most prisoners are forced to remain idle. Instead of having to learn vocational skills, they have too much free time to hone criminal skills and connections. And instead of removing wrongdoers from criminogenic environments, prison clusters together neophytes and experienced recidivists, breeding gangs, criminal networks, and more crime. long sentences on average breed much more crime after release than they prevent during the sentence. Any benefit from locking criminals up temporarily is more than offset by the crime increase caused when prison turns small-timers into career criminals.
Over-imprisonment disrupts work, families, and communities, the building blocks of society, with too little benefit to show for it. It is madness that prisoners spend years in state-sponsored idleness punctuated by sporadic brutality. All able-bodied prisoners should have to complete their educations and work, learning good work habits as well as marketable skills and be paid a fair wage, not pennies on the dollar. Prisoners’ wages could go to support their families, cover some costs of incarceration, and make restitution to their victims.
The American criminal justice has drifted away from its moral roots. The Left has forgotten how to blame and punish, and too often the Right has forgotten how to forgive. Over-imprisonment is wrong, but not because wrongdoers are blameless victims of a white-supremacist conspiracy. It is wrong because state coercion excessively disrupts work, families, and communities, the building blocks of society, with too little benefit to show for it. Our strategies for deterring crime not only fail to work on short-sighted, impulsive criminals, but harden them into careerists. Criminals deserve punishment, but it is wise as well as humane to temper justice with mercy.
Lawrence Goldfarb’s new book, From Hell to Eternity, will be released in 2018. Sign up to receive news, information and updates.