Saturday, January 10, 2015

Money Talks: The "Justice" System

It seems that there could be no other response than to say every person’s life is priceless, but yesterday, I spoke to a defense attorney who told me that within the justice system, everyone’s life has a price and it varies on their age, gender, race, and especially their economic status. Although, how does money become a factor when people are involved within the self-proclaimed “justice” system? It correlates to the quality in defense they receive.
    Bryan Stevenson, lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, claims that, “the opposite of poverty is justice”. He criticizes the system that can only be fair when represented by skilled advocates and hassaid that the biggest impediment in getting legal help for the poor isproviding proper defense. Defendants that can’t afford private attorneys are appointed public defenders. These lawyers often have minimal training, a heavy workload, experience prosecutorial misconduct, and  are underpaid in a job field where money is motivation. Public defenders can be paid as low as $1,000 spanning over an entire murder trial, which means that a private attorney can be paid the same amount for a traffic ticket.
   The courtroom seems to have striking resemblance to a casino because the house is always in favor to win and justice seems to be a gamble. State governments spend three times as much on prosecution as on publicdefense. Public defense is always underfunded, which doesn’t allow them proper access legal research, investigators, and scientific testing. John H. Langbeinof Yale Law School said if you are poor, you are casted into the system “inwhich the financial advantages of the state will overpower you and leave youeffectively at the mercy of prosecutorial whim.” It seems that because of the difference in quality of defense, the justice system is separated into two different systems: one for the poor and one for the wealthy.
   The justice system is funded in a way that will keep the poor disadvantaged unless changes are made. In most states, defendants can be charged for jail and prison stays, probation and parole supervision, electronic monitoring devices, and even fees for their public defenders. In this case, defendants are often times using their only finances to fund the prosecution instead of being able to pay for better defense attorneys. Although, the majority of funding comes from taxpayers. Discussing the fact that most taxpayer funds go towards prosecuting defendants, the National Public Radio organization said, “Some politicians fear the trend has gone too far”. This may be true, but no politician wants to be open about this because they fear being scrutinized for siding with criminals.
   I believe that everyone has done wrong in their lives and that our actions don’t necessarily define us as people. Somebody accused of a crime shouldn’t be forever labeled as a criminal, even though that is a common notion of the justice system and society as well. There needs to be a change in the way funds are distributed within the justice system so that defendants receive the trial they deserve with adequate defending.

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