In U.S., the arm of the law is way too long

  • Article by: Clive Crook , Bloomberg
  • Updated: August 14, 2013 - 8:45 PM

The U.S. system of criminal justice is broken beyond belief. No real checks and balances, no discretion here.

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davehougAug. 14, 1310:58 PM

Remember what we taught in Civics class about "Congress shall pass not Ex Post Facto law". Well I have seen that thrown out with many other aspects. We are now a nation of men when the current Attorney General decides what laws we face. The next one may be better or worse, but that was why we were a nation of laws......they don't rely on the good graces of a single man.

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hawkeye56379Aug. 14, 1311:10 PM

What ex post facto laws are you saying have been passed?

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pumiceAug. 15, 13 9:51 AM

Re: "How come Congress passed those laws to begin with?" Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that states passed mandatory minimum sentences (no sentencing discretion for judges) and Three Strikes laws (automatic 25-years-to-life sentences for repeat offenders regardless of the offense) and truth-in-sentencing laws (removes parole option) at the behest of ALEC? One or more of those three laws is reflected over and over in this commentary about mass incarceration and what has become the American Injustice System.

To trace the root of these laws, as always one must follow the money. Two large private prison corporations--Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group--sponsored ALEC efforts and benefit from lengthy mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders.

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twspt7Aug. 15, 1311:32 AM

We now have a prison-industrial complex to go with the military-industrial complex and the media-industrial complex. Look at the percentage of Americans incarcerated in 1971 - when Nixon declared a "War on Drugs" - and the percentage of Americans incarcerated now. The growth curve looks familiar to those of us who have tracked our nation's indebtedness. The growth was turbo charged by the Sentencing Reform Act, a part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 which, to be politically fair, was passed by large majorities in both houses of Congress and signed into law by Reagan.

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jd55604Aug. 15, 13 2:41 PM

Great article. This heavy reliance on plea deals is turning our criminal justice system into a sham. It makes prosecutions more about quantity rather than justice. Gladly take the benevolent prosecutor’s plea offer and become an instant felon or insist upon a jury trial as is your right and go broke while you battle the prosecutor who has the funds of the state behind him. If the prosecution wants to charge a defendant with 10 crimes then for the sake of justice the defendant needs to either plead guilty to all 10 charges or the defendant needs to be tried before a jury. Stacking up charges (some serious and some frivolous) on defendants just for the sake of making a cheap and easy plea deal possible betrays our justice system. Allowing prosecutors to decide both who they will charge and what they will prosecute is not how our legal system was supposed to work. Imagine if a county attorney’s office had to pursue prosecution for every crime charged to a defendant from their office? Very quickly you would see only the most serious of crimes being prosecuted and our incarceration rate for non-violent offenders drastically fall.

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davehougAug. 15, 13 3:25 PM

What ex post facto laws are you saying have been passed - - - Tax laws and student loan rates. But also the whole idea that so many constitutional aspects have been set aside. $ = free speech for corporate political campaigns, Public Domain = whoever pays more taxes to the city, Navigable Waters = every stream and ground water, if the president calls you an enemy combatant you no longer have civil rights, and the whole, Feds have no authority to force drunk limits or speed limits on state highways, but Feds merely hold back dollars to get their way.

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pumiceAug. 15, 13 7:13 PM

Re: "Look at the percentage of Americans incarcerated in 1971 - when Nixon declared a 'War on Drugs' - and the percentage of Americans incarcerated now." There's another group of "felons" on the horizon, twspt7. CCA and GEO Group are casting greedy eyes at illegal immigrants (not the employers who hire them, though--employers get preferential green card bonuses). ICE is paying CCA to detail about 1,000 alleged undocumented immigrants just in Houston. And GEO Group's salivating to get its share of the projected 2-billion-dollar bonanza.

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