By Joseph Snook
Prosecutors, the people who are supposed to seek justice, are arguably the very people law abiding citizens should fear most. With law enforcement approval at a reportedly 22 year low, the public sentiment of law enforcement is evidently a problem. But bad cops are one small aspect of the U.S. Criminal Justice System that accounts for the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world.
Criminal Justice reform is a fairly new trend, but how we got here is complex. Laws are created, enacted, and enforced across the country every year. Laws are usually created with good intention, but many of those who enforce them pay little to NO price when they unjustly enforce them. The “seeking justice” slogan that is supposed to be followed, has long been replaced with INCENTIVE$. The result: more people incarcerated.
Cash for convictions, Asset Forfeiture and many other legal terms are evident, but resolving this problem that contributes to the United States incarceration rate is only a vague topic for most politicians, yet it plagues this country, from coast to coast. There are many legal arguments to validate the government, and a defendant’s point of view. All arguments often result in cost being a major factor.
Despite the costs of “justice”, If you are the person being arrested, it’s obvious, the cards are stacked against you. Accountability is one aspect of our justice system that is often a non-issue, yet it should be at the forefront of every aspect of government. There are many issues that contribute to the current problem, but another issue – immunity, is one of the most important contributing factors.
Have you ever filed a lawsuit against government for violating your rights? Specifically against a prosecutor? The amount of cases I’ve seen where a prosecutor has been successfully charged and convicted for violating a citizen’s rights is an amount which can be counted on one hand. Why? The exact answer, again, is comprised of many factors, but one fact remains – Immunity is almost always granted to prosecutors. The burden of proof lies on the person who has had their rights violated. Even then, a pattern is usually required, which means that you have to find numerous other cases, like yours, where an individual prosecutor violated someone else’s rights, in the same manner.
Don’t forget to take into account that most lawyers do not like suing government. Even then, the cost to do so is exorbitant and often results in a bankrupting experience without resolution.
You have a attorney general’s office, comprised of lawyers, who are to investigate alleged crimes by prosecutors, which is similar to police who investigate other police officers. We all know how that usually ends…
We, as a country, have strayed so far from our founding principles, that nowadays, if you mention the word constitution, you may be considered by many as a domestic terrorist. Why would a document so important to our country, a document that all elected politicians, police and prosecutors take an oath to uphold and defend, be misconstrued as a terrorist doctrine? Because ever so slowly, the document that is supposed to protect us from government abuse, has in fact, been eroded by the very people who have taken the oath to defend it.
There are real criminals. There are good police officers. There may be honest prosecutors. That is not in dispute. The United States incarceration rate is also not in dispute – again, it is the largest per capita worldwide. That is a problem. 97% +/- of all criminal cases result in the legal blackmail known as a plea deal, where the accused who is charged with multiple crimes admits guilt to at least one in return for a more lenient punishment – often for time served and probation, in exchange for the many years in prison they were initially facing. Prosecutors on the other hand enjoy the privilege of not paying when they make mistakes, mistakes that often send innocent people to prison for many years, even to death.
The real issue is that prosecutors, instead of being granted immunity, should be held to a higher standard. They hold an immense power, and with that authority should come greater responsibility. They have chosen to work for the people. Accountability is a responsibility that has evidently become nearly extinct in our criminal justice system. It is time that people start promoting criminal justice reform. Until then and even if reform is ever obtained, this quote from Thomas Sowell is apropos; “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”