The United States has the largest number of prisoners of any country in the world: more than China, Russia, and Iran. It also has the highest proportion of its population in prison than any other country in the world. This is according to according to the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London. Part of the reason for this astonishing statistic is that criminal prosecution is administered by prosecutors who are rated on the basis of their conviction rates, and not on any statistic that has to do with administering rightful justice. 90-95 percent of convictions never see a trial, but are processed into the prisons through coerced plea bargains. Millions of people are coerced without the due process guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. See: http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts274.html
In many ways, the reason for this dysfunctional assembly-line injustice is the immensely overburdened US justice system. The public demands a reduction in crime, and wants to see convictions. By casting a very broad and imprecise net, a vast number of both the guilty and innocent are convicted. A better method of dealing with this situation would be to reduce the causes of that crime in the first place. The chief causes of crime in the US boil down to two: chronic unemployment, and harsh drug laws. The US minimum wage laws, and academically skewed educational system, have created an underclass of permanently unemployable citizens that resort to the “job” of crime as their means of survival. This topic is covered in our No-Wage Tyranny article. The other great generator of “criminals” is the overly harsh drug laws of the United States. Add to this the heavy-handed enforcement methods of many of the states, and the result is a massive suspect-processing and incarceration nightmare. Much of the drug abuse in the US is the result of the toxic environment of entire communities of rampant unemployment and the resulting breakdown of the family structure. The solution to this problem is to remove the reason for the unemployment, and to treat the drug addiction by making viable drug treatment and support programs available in lieu of incarceration.
To quickly facilitate the rapid movement of suspects through the justice system, a method which utilizes coercion and plea bargaining has evolved. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plea bargain. The coercion occurs in the form of lying by the prosecutor and the police about the facts and the evidence. This lying is fully condoned by theUnited States judicial system. Based on the falsehoods, the prosecutor can pile on charges, along with their commensurate threat of years in prison, and threaten to make up even more, until the suspect finally gives in and agrees to the plea bargain, which by then looks like a safer bet. Why would an innocent person accept such a deal? It’s simple. The suspect knows they did not do the crime, but they still hear them making-up charges, and fabricating stories of “evidence”. By this time, the suspect is thoroughly convinced that the entire justice system is rigged, and that he or she is going to be railroaded in a kangaroo court.
Police are trained in highly coercive and manipulative psychological interrogation techniques that are documented to produce a high number of false confessions. The interrogation manuals discount the possibility of false confession through their use, which precludes the requirement for any false confession safeguards. See: http://people.howstuffworks.com/police-interrogation.htm/printable
Eyewitness testimony has been found to be incorrect about 70 percent of the time, but is highly influential to juries, even despite hard evidence that contradicts the eyewitness account. This gives great incentive for the prosecution to manufacture eyewitnesses. False witnesses can be produced by many techniques: offering deals to suspects in exchange for “eyewitness” testimony, or planting cellmates that then testify that the suspect confessed the crime to them.
And the injustice to the convicted innocent does not stop at verdict. At sentencing, the judge expects the guilty to show remorse, admit to the crime, and apologize to the victim and the victim’s friends and family. But the innocent that are not willing to pretend to be guilty and pretend to have remorse are subject to harsher sentencing. This charade even carries over to parole hearings. The innocent who are still not willing to admit guilt and show remorse are deemed not to be rehabilitated, and are denied parole.
In the final analysis, we must revert to the stance that the method of solving this problem must start with removing the primary causes of the overburdening of the justice system. Criminality must be reduced by curtailing permanent unemployment, and by revising the methods of dealing with drug abuse. We need treatment instead of incarceration.