Last time, we were looking at the report that Harris Country led the nation in exonerations. Sadly, this occurred because the processing of low-level drug offenders had become so cynical that innocent suspect were pleading guilty, simply to get out of the grasp of the criminal justice system sooner than if they had asserted their innocence.
The DA in this situation found “clogs” at every point in the system, every one slowing down the process of their exonerations. One question that came up was why individuals were pleading guilty to a charge when they were innocent.
The truth for many is that it simply makes sense. They could risk a 20-year sentence if convicted at trial, or take a deal for two years. They may fear the crime lab might “find” the substance was an illegal drug, or they may feel the police may have planted the substance. But because many do not have clean records, they take the plea agreement as the best deal.
It is not an optimal outcome.
And it points to the conveyor belt-like operation of the criminal justice system, where many individuals are recycled through the system, over and over again. They feel the system is stacked against them, and yet, with the grievously damaging effect of a conviction for a felony drug charge, they often remain enmeshed in the underworld of petty drug crimes and other associated crimes like criminal mischief and shoplifting.
Since the 1990s, these offenders have been banned from welfare for life and are often unable to find work, housing or obtain student loans. With few resources, they are left with few options but attempting to get by selling drugs or prostituting themselves.
And Justice, under her blindfold, sheds a tear.
Source: takeapart.com “Why Do People Plead Guilty To Drug Crimes When They Don’t Have Drugs?” Eric Benson, November 20, 2015