Monday, March 12, 2012

pressure to plea bargain

Michelle Alexander puts forth an interesting idea: Instead of taking the plea bargain offered, go to court. Prosecutors like to pile on the charges so that the accused is looking at a horrific prison sentence, and then offer a plea bargain. Instead of risking the horrific sentence, the accused takes the "bargain," which might be an easier sentence but still means he is pleading guilty to a felony. Once a felon, always a felon. I heard someone else describe it as a life sentence,no matter how soon you get out of prison. When you are a felon, people don't want to hire you, they don't want to rent to you. You can't vote, serve on a jury, or own a gun.

Alexander says the majority of the accused take the plea bargain to avoid the risk they see in going to court. However, if enough said "no thanks" to the plea bargain, the court system would be overwhelmed by the number of trials. It is an interesting way to apply pressure in the effort to make changes in the system.

Alexander talks about drug cases because the majority of the growth in prison population is from drug convictions but all of this is true about child pornography convictions, as well. On top of the humiliation of leaving prison with that lifetime felony "sentence," those convicted of possession of child porn are given the additional lifetime sentence of the sex offender registry.

If you plead guilty to drug possession, you have a much better shot at hanging on to your friends and family while you are in prison than if you plead guilty to receiving child porn. People understand substance abuse but addiction to child porn--or even a passing interest--is something else entirely. Only a crazy person would confess to understanding how someone could develop an interest in child porn...because no one wants to be smeared with the taint of something so beyond the pale. 

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