Predatory Prosecution in America's Broken Criminal Justice System
Updated: May 2
So, often we hear about how Police Officers wrongfully killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others. The unchecked misconduct of Police has gone on for decades, but the systemic problem of law enforcement misconduct in America's Criminal Justice System goes far beyond the Police and reaches deep into the Court systems where Predatory Prosecutors wield vast often unchecked power that may alter lives forever.
Today, a Prosecutor in America holds the ability to inflict permanent life altering damage on individual defendants, also affecting their families. A criminal allegation, charge is often combined with the use of exorbitant bail amounts, malicious charge stacking by Prosecutor and coercive threats, warning of long jail sentences if a defendant chooses a Trial by Jury.
Whether you're Black, Asian, Native American, White or any other ethnicity, virtually every American, as a defendant in the Criminal Justice System today is coerced to submit to a plea deal of guilty, often regardless of the true facts and evidence while Judges play along.
FBI data shows just 3% of all criminal cases are brought to trial by jury. So, about 97% of criminal charges end in plea deals of guilty; whereas the defendant is coerced into agreeing to a supposed reduced charge. In exchange for the plea deal, a defendant forfeits their US Constitution Sixth Amendment Right to trial by jury of peers, speedy trial within 6-8 months and loses the right to any appeals. Once on Probation or Parole defendants having lost all rights, less than 50% ever successfully complete the strict terms, and therefore end up in violation, typically going to jail to serve out the sentence anyway reports Bright Nova.
Annually, the Prison system in America costs taxpayers over $80 Billion, while police and court costs, bail bond fees, and prison phone fees generate another $100 billion in costs that are paid by mostly lower income defendants and families. According to the US Prison Policy Initiative, annually over 10.8 million Americans are arrested and 2.5 million people are sentenced to incarceration per year, with 550,000 of them—25% percent or more — held in pretrial detention without being convicted.
Overall Americans pay $182 Billion annually for the current broken criminal justice system which ultimately damages millions of families with generational impacts (Read Full Report).
The economic impact studies show individuals being incarcerated also contributes to higher true US unemployment rates. Consequently, the U.S. economy loses nearly $65 billion in output, lost productivity annually, according to a report by The Center for Economy and Policy. For ex-prisoners, it is very difficult to re-enter the workforce due to the increased use of background checks which often frustrate reintegration job efforts, contributing to the 67% recidivism rates 2 out of 3 people are rearrested within 3 years, according to FBI data (2020).
Over 46% of defendants are facing minor non violent charges that would not mandate further incarceration, but they lack the resources to make bail and secure their freedom. Some therefore feel compelled to take whatever plea deal the prosecutor offers, even if they are truthfully innocent.
The National Employment Law Project estimates over 70 million Americans have pleaded out to a charge and have a criminal record. And a criminal charge history is a mark that can carry lifetime consequences inhibiting and often eliminating many opportunities such as college education, career employment, housing rental and mortgage application for home ownership. Having a record, even for a probation violation that is trivial, means a person can face tougher charges and punishment if he or she again encounters the criminal-justice system. Plea bargaining has become so coercive that many innocent people feel they have no option but to plead guilty, powerless against predatory Prosecution.
“Our system makes it a rational choice to plead guilty to something you didn’t do,” says Maddy deLone, the former Executive Director of the Innocence Project. The result, according to the late Harvard Law Professor William J. Stuntz, who writes extensively about the history of plea bargains in The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, is a system that has become “the harshest in the history of any democratic government.”
Overwhelmingly, criminal charges are brought against individuals, over 65% of the time that have significant medical issues such as drug addiction, mental illness and/or dual diagnosis. Often poorly educated, these individuals have little chance against predatory Prosecutors that essentially use the defendants medical illness condition to convict and coerce a plea deal, where essentially the individual forfeits all legal rights to appeal and gives up the right to trial by jury, thus left completely vulnerable.
Further, many predatory Prosecutors across American today are generating municipal County revenue through the U.S. Criminal Justice System based on ordinary citizens, defendants misery and medical illness. Human beings, people with families. And often putting individuals in a jail system not trained to solve the problem from repeating, instead leading us to 67% recidivism, failure rates, in a vicious cycle.
Take a small town, population 45,000 like Gallatin, Tennessee in Sumner County, where a new courthouse and justice system mega project costing taxpayers $91 million has been approved to generate more municipal revenue with court fees, legal costs, fines, bail and probation costs. But what’s the impact on the integrity of the Court “justice” system and effect on local people?
Given 97% of the criminal charges end in plea deals, fees and monetary fines using coercive persecution tools. Sumner County like many other municipalities in America seek to gain funding for ambitious multi-million projects which creates a predatory culture in the District Attorney Office and Police now under severe budget pressure to increasingly generate higher volumes of cases that produce more revenue for the county in order to fund the costly projects like in Gallatin, Tennessee.
But as the greater need for municipal budget money, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic strains the local budgets; the US Constitutional Civil Rights of ordinary citizens, most often those of lower income are thrown by the wayside with flimsy criminal allegations pushed through by predatory Prosecutors using coercive and subversive techniques to force plea deals which generate more municipal revenue to feed budget needs with court fees, legal costs, fines, bail and probation costs. But, many defendants incur permanent damages even if the case is dismissed and there's a record of the allegation.
Moreover, the average family income for example in a town like Gallatin, Tennessee is less than $56,000 per year. The average household in town has four people (i.e. 2 parents with 2 kids). And over 50% of the households never attained college level education. So, the average family would not be able to pose a significant viable defense to such claims brought by many predatory Prosecutors in America.
For example, a local District Attorney, Prosecutor charges a parent, typically the Father with a criminal charge. If a Judge sets bail at $5,000 and the family is forced to hire a defense attorney at a cost of $5,000 that puts an immediate CASH burden on the family of $5,500 in order to keep the Father out of jail and fight the charge (s) with quality paid legal counsel. It could cost over $25,000 total legal fees.
But statistics show that on-average a typical Millennial family 70% have less than $1,000 in CASH savings available. Even if the Father is able to afford bail but not adequate legal counsel. The result is a public defender for representation nearly 100% of the time leading to plea deals and significant Court fees, fines and probation costs due for years and record preventing decent employment options.
Should the defendant be unable to pay for bail, as nearly 50% of all millennial families have no savings (ZERO), they are put in jail - incarcerated until Trial months out which forces the family including kids unable to pay rent to lose their home and defendant loses their job while being detained. Keep in mind, this is prior to ever being convicted. Not only do the family kids suffer and taxpayer burden increases there's long term generational impacts in the family.
So, the Prosecutor wields great coercive power to alter the lives of the defendant and the family including kids' futures for generations usurping the defendant US Constitutional Right to a fair Trial by jury. And the defendant, often desperate to save the family in trauma, submits to a plea deal which most often leads 60% of the time ends in probation violation ultimately requiring jail time making the initial plea a bad deal for everyone involved and taxpayers end up paying more money.
In over 60% of plea deals the defendant's probation is violated, and the defendant is incarcerated. A result that drastically impacts the family, typically now the single mother, often is left in poverty with kids and on welfare becomes an even greater burden on taxpayers, as the defendant Father sits in jail.
Studies show the struggling Mother to keep the kids in touch with the Father in jail spends upward of $2,200 per year on commissary essentials, money that goes to the prison system, and $3,500 per year on phone charges plus another $550 per year on travel costs to visit their loved one being held in jail.
Further, on-average to incarcerate and care for an inmate in jail it costs taxpayers about $36,000 per year. The result almost never yields any genuine long-term “corrections” solution, as nearly 67% of all convicts reoffend within 3 years after release due to denial of job opportunities, lack of medical support for mental illness, addiction and lack of job education skills. The defendants and families are often stuck in a vicious cycle for generations. And predominantly it affects low income families of all ethnic groups Black, Asian, Native American, White and others reports Bright Nova.
So what's the answer to fixing the broken criminal justice system in America
1. Modernize Court systems to use mobile technology proceedings including Court Trials held virtually in order to truly make it more cost efficient and just, putting the emphasis on the facts, witnesses and evidence and eliminate all plea deals. Today, many types of court proceedings will use video technology to permit all participants to join remotely, with jury trials being one exception. Because most court hearings are open to the public, most judges are live-streaming the virtual hearings using YouTube. Read More About Making Court Trials Virtual ...
Require Trial by Jury, let peers decide every criminal felony conviction and/or offer parties affordable mediation resolution directly decided among the parties Plaintiff / Defendant to resolve matters without Prosecutor intervention. This will drastically cut the volume of predatory Prosecution cases and malicious Plaintiff abuse of the criminal system. It calls for restoring the original US Constitution Sixth Amendment Rights to the defendant to receive a fair trial by jury of the people. And puts the power of the Court system back into the local people’s hands where it was originally intended.
A significant change in the cultural of how America deals with crime to focus on finding solutions to prevent a repeat of the behavior is much more cost effective, saving billions of dollars. Most often "a criminal act" is the byproduct of underlining desperation, conditions whereas, the suspect is in essence crying out for help. Predominantly crime involves a financial, mental illness and/or addiction issue that lead to the "criminal act". Therefore, by treating the underlining symptom with qualified healthcare and career job training i.e. educators would produce a far lower recidivism rate, thus saving BILLIONS annually for American taxpayers.
NOTE : Historically in 1910, just 10% of Court cases resulted in plea deals. In 2019, nearly 97% of all criminal cases resulted in a plea deal, clearly showing predatory prosecution misuse including coercive charge stacking, intimidation.
2. Eliminate Bail Requirements, unless the defendant is violent and poses immediate danger to the public. This removes the income inequalities that exist and minimizes damage to defendant families. A person should not be in jail prior to conviction.
3. Police can’t lie to obtain information during investigations. Currently, it's shocking that police may be legally enabled to lie during an investigation. We should hold police officers financially liable for misconduct with oversight. Eliminate “Qualified Immunity” statute
4. Rebuild incarceration system and hire staff / professionals trained to add valuable medical illness and addiction treatment, healthcare dual diagnosis and job education skills training. This new “Self Development System” empowers individuals and a culture that produces far better results. Eliminate the current “jailer” basically a glorified babysitter in many cases.
5. Remove Job Background Checks, eliminate ability to look beyond past 3 years. Whereas past records over 3 years old, may not be open to employer hiring decisions. This truly allows healthy convicts having their served time (paid restitution) to become productive wage earners, full voters and tax paying contributors to society; thus reducing cost burdens on taxpayers.
6. Eliminate Grand Jury. It’s most often a sneaky way for predatory Prosecutors to pass through bogus and often malicious charges without any unbiased Judge oversight. The grand jury concept dates back to 1066, an Act of Henry II of England. Today, it's an outdated scheme used by prosecutors to ram-through bogus / flimsy cases without any defense evidence being presented in opposition. The grand jury scheme wastes taxpayer money and often results in a miscarriage of justice such as plea deals. Ultimately, it's not beneficial to society and impacts a defendants' family members including children who are left devastated. If a case is truly legitimate most often there's no need for a grand jury.
7. Jury Transparency : Enable Jury access to all facts including the length of sentence that maybe imposed on a charge (s) if they vote guilty. For example, if a theft is alleged of $1,000 to $2,500 would it be equal to say a 10 to 15 year jail sentence that maybe imposed or would the punish far outweigh the alleged crime. And the Jury should NOT be allowed to use past prejudicial history ie. record beyond 5 years in determining guilt or innocence.
In every healthy Democracy such as America, it's the PEOPLE that makeup the true substance and fabric of our communities. So, a return to empowering the people to instill true justice is not only liberating, it's far more cost effective for American taxpayers and delivers much better results in producing a more EQUAL and productive society. The change benefits our families and children. It’s our responsibility as Americans to leave the communities we live in as a more equal society with genuine opportunities for all. Ridding ourselves of predatory Prosecutors clearly saves money, transforming a broken criminal justice system, while honestly upgrading American people’s lives, particularly everyday families and the children left in its wake, often devastated.
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