By Joseph Snook
New York – The knowledge of egregious mistakes in criminal prosecutions across the United States are undoubtedly growing each year. With well over 2,000 exonerations to date, the need for criminal justice reform is a priority for those who have a first-hand knowledge of this travesty of justice. One less talked about issue involving criminal justice reform is the cost endured by taxpayers. These costs occur when elected prosecutors, police and judges make costly mistakes – some with intent. The conservative approach, commonly referred to as “tough on crime” critics are now widely starting to take notice. One state leading the national dialogue on this issue – New York, has paid at least $199,508,000 since the beginning of 2014 to those who were wrongfully convicted.
According to a report in the NY Times:
“A court notice made public this week provides the following information: Everton Wagstaffe and Reginald Connor, who spent years in prison wrongly convicted of a kidnapping, will be paid a total of $25.578 million by the city and the state.
Mr. Wagstaffe, who served close to 23 years, is to be paid a total of $14.578 million, and Mr. Connor, who did more than 15 years, $11 million.
The city will not make any admission of wrongdoing, officials say.
Which may come as a relief, or a surprise, to the public, who might have naïvely assumed that the payment of more than $25 million to two men sent to prison for a crime they did not commit was, in some small way, a sign that something had been seriously screwed up.
For years the Brooklyn district attorney’s office defended the convictions. Sloppy, palpably false police work and testimony were written off as immaterial.”
And then there’s this argument: The United States Justice System although not perfect – is the most perfect justice system in the modern world. This argument is usually used as an excuse to pass liability by those who work for the citizens of the United States, or those who are fortunate enough to have no experience in this area.
Perhaps this “throw the book” (add criminal charges) at a criminal defendant and blackmail them into a plea deal is not working. This tactic has left many innocent men and women behind bars in fear of longer sentences if they exercise their right to trial. Many of them accept the deal, then start working to rightfully prove their innocence. When they’re finally exonerated – the public pays. This is partly why more conservative-minded people are starting to jump on board with criminal justice reform.
Incentives, grants, case-loads and promotions for those who “serve justice” are contributing factors of wrongful conviction. The mainstream media’s often regurgitated account of what the police report or prosecutor’s office says, contributes to a biased public – the potential jurors. This is another contributing factor that increases guilty verdicts for criminal defendants who are actually innocent. And theses costly mistakes made by our criminal justice system are not limited to only New York, either.
Today, corrupt judges, prosecutors, police and others in government are being watched closer than ever. If you’re an advocate for freedom – then that’s a good thing. If you’re in the position to take a life, then you are in a position to be held accountable. This line (policing, courts, etc.) of work isn’t an average 9-5 job and should be taken very serious as lives are constantly at stake.
Read some of the stories of those who’ve spent decades confined to a small cell – in prison. Imagine if that person was yourself. Imagine if it were your mother, son or daughter. Imagine you have to pay to incarcerate these people, which every taxpayer does. Do you want your hard earned money being spent to pay an exoneree millions of dollars because a crooked cop or vindictive prosecutor didn’t do their job properly?
State’s that offer (surprisingly only about half offer restitution) innocent people compensation for crimes they did not commit will continue to suffer if nothing is done. States that do not offer compensation will receive hefty lawsuits if the don’t compensate. Innocent men, women and their families will suffer if nothing is done. Taxpayers will continue to pay, too.
Let’s start by electing people who will repeal immunity for those who not only incarcerate the innocent, but for those who cost taxpayer’s millions while abusing their authority. Without accountability, there will never truly be “Justice for All.”
Contact the US~Observer if you, or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted.