Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-N.Y.) sent out a series of Tweets on Saturday night condemning the U.S. justice system, which incidentally has managed to put the highest percentage of citizens in prison in the world and possibly in history.
More than 2.2 million people are in cages today in America.
Ocasio-Cortez writes, “All too often, our criminal justice system—from tickets to convictions—is treated as a game, where the one racks up the most ‘points’ wins. Paired w/foolish criminalization of marijuana, poverty, etc., it wrecks chaos on people’s lives + stagnates communities for generations”
“As a result, our system is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ only for the rich & ‘guilty until proven innocent’ for the poor,” Ocasio-Cortez continued in a following Tweet. “To borrow from @ZephyrTeachout, the RADICAL rule of law is the idea that in the same scenario, our courts would treat a billionaire the same as a Bronx teen.”
In the following Tweet, she said: “It does not mean the treatment + presumption of guilt before a verdict. It does not mean we aim for the most positive punishment. It means that in the eyes of the law we treat everyone the same. That’s far from what our current justice system does. And that’s why it must change.”
The United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population. It houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. Corrections (which includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole) cost is estimated to be around $100 million based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
I have firsthand experience that the US “justice” system is based on money and conviction stats.
If you have money, and you are innocent, you have some chance at justice. If you don’t have money and you are innocent, you are almost certainly going to prison.
Part of the reason for this is coercive plea bargains where the government overcharges defendants who are then facing extraordinary prison sentences. Without money to pay for the expenses of trial, with a public defender, who has an overloaded caseload, the innocent defendant is virtually forced to accept a plea deal and serve years in prison – rather than many years.
The shocking thing about this is that all prosecutors know that innocent people go to prison all the time and look at it as part of doing business. Judges also know when they are accepting plea deals that some before them are totally innocent but are making an allocution that is a lie.
They all have to know that innocent people are taking plea deals all the time. Either this or they are simply fools. Many prosecutors are glad to get conviction statistics even if it comes from innocent people and judges are perhaps resigned that justice is elusive.
The millions of Americans in prison, they are but a commodity. They are not real humans in the eyes of prosecutors.
The best proof I have yet seen is that exoneration projects based on DNA evidence routinely exonerate about 10 percent of convicts who pleaded guilty despite being 100 percent innocent. They did this to avoid more excessive charges.
In America there is no howl of protest for this disgraceful fact. If a horse or a dog is maltreated, there will be a hue and cry across America, but to think that 10 percent of people in prison today [a probable minimum] are innocent, causes no outrage. This is truly a wonderful fact about the fecklessness of human nature.
I don’t think prosecutors are necessarily evil. They are human. No better than the common American. And no worse. They simply have too much power.
I suspect the average electrician or stockbroker, put in the same set of circumstances – the ability – literally – to decide which people to coerce into prison – the innocent along with the guilty – might act the same – have a callous disregard for justice in lieu of job advancement that one gets in garnering lots of conviction stats.
They take the low road for it gets them there faster.
The English jurist William Blackstone wrote that “Tis better that ten guilty ones go free than one innocent suffer.”
Isn’t it ironic that in America we have almost precisely reversed that?