The Justice system in the United States is effective, but there are many problems that should be addressed. Everyone has the right to a fair trial and the poor are not getting fair representation. Having financial means gives you a lot of benefits in the Criminal justice system. The poor can’t afford a decent lawyer, some wealthy people have a team of lawyers. Our justice system doesn’t work for the poor. Justice should be blind in the matter how much money someone has.
The wealthy are either not punished or punished less severely. Wealthy violent criminals are being released after very short sentences, while the poor go to jail for small offenses. The wealthy can afford the best lawyers, the poor have the lawyer they could afford or one that is appointed to them. Many feel our justice system is unfair to the poor and changes must be made. Better lawyers usually result in better outcomes Many will have different opinions about what they see is wrong with our Criminal Justice Systems.
There are many areas in the justice system which need to be improved and debate on concept of fairness will continue. There will never be a perfect criminal justice system that will make everyone involved happy. Many authors including Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza (2016), Maarten Rikken (2018), Alive Speri (2016), Stephen B. Bright (2010), Elizabeth Gleick (1995) and Miriam Gohara, & Sarah Geraghty (2003) have identified that the poor aren’t getting equal representation in our justice system based on their own perspective. There are some common problems mentioned, and many not mentioned. The poor don’t receive good representation in a trial. The system is unfair to the poor and disadvantaged, there should be equal justice for all. Today there are 2.3 million people in prison, and the United States has the highest incarnation rate of and country in the world. In 2003, authors Miriam Gohara, & Sarah Geraghty wrote an article about the poor being entitled to a lawyer if accused of a felony. The state of Mississippi provides no funding, leaving the obligation to each county. The inadequate funding and no structure in the county to help the poor is causing a crisis for many across the state. Some spend years in overcrowded county jails awaiting trial for non-violent crimes. Court appointed lawyers struggle with excessive caseloads. Some are inexperienced and misinform clients. Families are told to pay fees or risk substandard service. (Gohara & Geraghty,2003). This is not right, the wealthy can post bail and get the best lawyer, while others are waiting, sometimes up to a year. The State of Mississippi has no method to ensure that each county is fulfilling the state’s constitutional obligation to provide lawyers to the poor. Most in jails haven’t even been convicted of a crime and are just left waiting because they don’t have money. The state should be held accountable, taxpayers are paying for all these people awaiting trial. When lawyers are provided to the poor, most are inexperienced. This is not equality in the criminal justice system. Many Americans assume that if you can’t afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you. In 2016, Alice Speri wrote, People in poverty have virtually no access to civil aid attorneys ” only .64 are available per 10,000, as opposed to an average of 40 lawyers per 10,000 people in the general population. Civil aide is important to the poor and most are turned away. The government has no obligation to provide free legal counsel in civil cases. The poor can face incarceration because they can’t pay child support, alimony, fines, or traffic tickets. (Speri, 2016) Everyone should be entitled to a lawyer, it should not matter what kind of case it is, it someone has to go before a judge they should have a lawyer. Many people are sued for things that they didn’t do, or have no control over. Maybe a father can’t afford child support because he is sick and lost his job. He can end up in jail because he can’t afford an attorney. A wealthy landlord wants a family to move out because they were late for the rent one time. The poor need representation, especially for things that they have no control over. The wealthy can afford the best lawyers to defend them in Civil matters, but can also take advantage of the poor and sue them knowing they can’t afford a lawyer. According to Maarten Rikken, in an interview, In general, wealthy people are not exploiting the system, but rather are able to take advantage of the rights afforded to everyone under our system of government to a degree that is not available to poor people. We should not criticize the rich for taking advantage of their rights, they are doing nothing wrong. The standard of justice should be the same for everyone, whether you are rich or poor. (Rikken, 2016) The poor need capable lawyers, they make decisions which can have dramatic effects on other people’s lives. People may end up in jail, bankrupt or lose their children, etc. As in any every profession, there are good and bad. Many are overworked and don’t have the time and resources needed to do their jobs. Everyone has the same rights, the poor are provided with incompetent lawyers, while the rich can pay the for the best defense. The law only requires representation, the quality of representation doesn’t seem to matter. In the article Rich justice, Poor Justice”, the author Elizabeth Glieck compares several trails and how the outcomes were different based on wealth. OJ Simpson had the best lawyers that money could buy. DNA specialists, jury consultants, investigators, and experts were also hired. Judy Haney sits on death row in Alabama, convicted in 1988 of murdering her abusive husband. Haney was represented by court-appointed attorneys, since she couldn’t afford her own. The lawyer came to court drunk, the judge had to stop and trail and sent the lawyer to jail for the night. When the trial resumed the next day, Haney was convicted and sentenced to die. (Gleick, 1995) According to Elizabeth Glieck, middle-income defendants who don’t qualify for court-appointed counsel (the standards vary from state to state) can sometimes end up worse off than the poor. Middle class hire lawyers based on what they can afford, many go into debt. High-priced attorneys research to exploit every loophole that they can find. The free lawyers provided to the poor do not have the time, or the resources to do that type of research, so their clients suffer. A poorer person with the same charges would be found guilty. The more money you have the more advantages you have in the justice system. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that an attorney must be provided to defendants in criminal cases who are unable to afford their own attorneys. Author Stephen Bright in his article Legal Representation for the Poor: Can Society Afford This Much Injustice? discusses the Gideon v. Wainwrigh verdict and the outcome. Clarence Gideon was arrested for breaking and entering a poolroom, and denied an attorney. He was forced to represent himself at his trial but was convicted and sent to prison. Gideon appealed to the United States Supreme Court and won. The court assigned him an attorney for a new trial, Abe Fortas, he was acquitted and released. (Bright,2010) According to author Stephen Bright, It was an unfunded mandate from the federal government. There was no agency to go about administering the daunting task of implementing the decision. Oh course, state and local governments want to spend as little as possible. The federal government is forcing states to do something without giving them funds. This forces them to divert funds from other programs, raise taxes, or borrow money. Many states do not have the resources and funds required to provide the poor with lawyers. Many public defenders are overworked and underpaid. There is no one to oversee that a state adequately providing the equal representation to the poor. It is not okay for a public defender to be overwhelmed with a massive caseload, that they are unable to adequately defend their client. The Federal government should be helping to ensure that each state is implementing the mandate. There should be guidelines consistent among all the states. There is no equity when one public defender could be handling hundreds of cases at a time. This mandate only requires representation, not the quality of representation and this has to change. According to author Brett Brownell We have to encourage prosecutors, DAs, and judges to actually look at cases rather than just push people through the system and assume they’re all guilty and deserving of this. Brett Brownwell see many problems in the area of public defenders. More public defenders would be needed to complete the current caseload. Most states don’t allow public defenders to turn down cases they don’t have time for. The United States spends less on public defense as a percentage per capita than every single European nation. (Brownwell, 2018) There are reports recommending annual caseload maximums for public defenders and most are exceeded. Public defense budgets are very low compared to other areas in the criminal-justice system. Brett Brownell feels that today we are criminalizing the small stuff. Misdemeanor charges overwhelm the courts and should probably be handled another way. More money won’t solve the problem, but changes could be made so our criminal justice system can concentrate on important things. Everyone has a right to a fair trial, this is part of the constitution. Our justice system doesn’t work for the poor. The poor are unable pay to post bail or hire a decent lawyer. Most people in jail haven’t even been convicted of a crime. Rich people can afford to get better lawyers. A poorer person with the same charges would be found guilty or sentenced differently. It will never be equal, money is power. Most public defenders are overwhelmed with active cases. It is really difficult to give every defendant personalized service that they are entitled to. There is lack of consistency in enforcing laws and punishments given to the poor. For instance, a rich person may get 10 years for committing a murder, whereas a poor person may get sentenced to 30 years for possession of marijuana. There needs to be a better system of accountability. If a lawyer is reported as being in incompetent, there should be an investigation. This mandate only requires representation for the poor, not the quality of representation. There is no clear definition about the quality of the representation, and no accountability of inadequate services that are sometimes offered to the poor. The criminal justice system is good in the United States, it’s not perfect but it’s one of the fairest in the world. It should be fairer and apply evenly to everyone. There are many areas in the justice system that need to be improved and debate on concept of fairness will continue.