setting record straight on US criminal justice system

Fifteen well written points from a former criminal defense lawyer. The entire commentary is worth reading, as it highlights our system of “justice” from a lawyer’s perspective who has worked in the courts for many years. Many myths are debunked; some perspectives that we all know are corroborated. I’ve quoted a portion of the article below, though the entire page is worth a read.

Prosecutors are trained to charge cases using the maximum allowable number of criminal statutes, with preference always given to the statutes with the highest maximum term of imprisonment….

Given how overbroad most criminal statutes are, most Americans probably have, at some point, technically committed a misdemeanor-level crime….

Only a miniscule percentage of criminal cases are of the sort irresponsibly fetishized by films, novels, and television. The overwhelming majority of offenses committed by Americans… are nonviolent offenses with either no discernible victim or a victim whose only legally discernible loss is a small monetary one….

Just as troubling as the needless incarceration of so many nonviolent offenders is the incarceration of indigent defendants pre-trial….

…the criminal justice system is poorly equipped to understand and combat actual evil on a grand scale….

Everyone in the criminal justice system knows that alcohol is an exponentially more dangerous drug than marijuana….

No one is more clearly charged with the daily defense of the Constitution than a criminal defense attorney. Even so, the political right… is forever seeking to reduce public expenditures on [criminal defense lawyers for poor people]….

Judges have nothing concrete to gain from granting leniency to criminal defendants, which is why, contrary to what pundits and laypeople often claim, they rarely do….

Prosecutors do not… represent “the people.” Nor do they represent the community, the citizenry, or crime victims….

Most criminals are white, most criminals are male, and the more serious the crime, the lower the offender’s recidivism rate and therefore the less likely it is to ever happen to you or anyone you know. [And yet minorities are more likely to be incarcerated for the same crime, as are males regardless of race.] …

As a result many, if not most, police reports—the documents officers testify from in court proceedings—are inaccurate….

If middle- and upper-class American communities were policed in the same manner working-class and working-poor communities are… a substantial percentage of our nation’s criminal statutes would soon be appealed, repealed, or dramatically amended.

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