Taking a Pig And Calling it a Princess: The Economist & American Justice - Page 2
Note that 94 percent of all criminal cases are plea-bargained with the most serious charges routinely tossed aside to gain convictions.
Beyond prosecution, most felony defendants do not get prison time in the United States. It takes multiple felony convictions to get someone placed in prison today.
Where is this well-oiled machine the Economist speaks of?
Within criminal justice circles, we greatly fear the results of a decade’s worth of budget cuts and the near devastation of the system of justice. All of this is well documented on Crime in America.Net.
Time Magazine commented on the impact of incarceration on crime rates;
"In his book Why Crime Rates Fell, Tufts University sociologist John Conklin concluded that up to half of the improvement was due to a single factor: more people in prison (emphasis added). The U.S. prison population grew by more than half a million during the 1990s and continued to grow, although more slowly, in the next decade. Go back half a century: as sentencing became more lenient in the 1960s and ’70s, the crime rate started to rise. When lawmakers responded to the crime wave by building prisons and mandating tough sentences, the number of prisoners increased and the number of crimes fell."
So the bottom line is that many of us “do” support the lessening of prison populations and we “do” support programs for offenders in and out of prison and we “do” recognize the negative fiscal impact of incarceration on the states.
What we don’t like are the endless horror stories that make the crippled criminal justice system out to be what it’s not. The American system of justice is reeling from endless budget cuts and lay-offs of police officers and other criminal justice workers.
And too many people who “do” belong in prison aren’t because the hobbled system lets them fall through the cracks.
So if the Economist and others want a changed justice landscape, taking a pig and calling it a princess will not get you there. A little honesty and context might get you the support of people within the system and mainstream media. Painting an inaccurate picture will just foster hostility and resistance.
If you want to see a responsible discussion of incarceration and differing opinions, check out Governing Magazine. Yes, you can be pro-incarceration yet cut the prison population.