How can anyone look at this and say that our American justice system works?


And, as long as we’re talking about the prison industrial complex, did any of you catch the story on private prisons that ran on NPR the other day? It’ll make you want to riot in the streets… You won’t, of course… But you’ll want to.

[The above image came courtesy of Reddit.]

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  1. JJ
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    The justice system works extremely well, just not for certain demographics.

  2. Edward
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Someone called TheVanityShow posted something interesting in the Reddit thread.

    I’m in Law School and this illustrates how bad the system is rigged to favor the wealthy, and literally nothing can be done to change it.

    Just as an example: The Plea Bargain – which the homeless guy most likely took.

    The plea bargain is supposed to keep the court free and moving along, but what it does to the poor who can’t afford a lawyer, is forcing them to plea to charges they are likely not even guilty of simply because their lawyer doesn’t have the time or money to fight them (PubDef)

    The AIG guy has a lawyer who will bury the ADA in paperwork. The ADA knows this, but has to get this guy in jail, but the AIG guy lawyer is good, and knows that he can drag out a trial over the next 2-4 years… the ADA doesn’t want to do this… he’s got fucking murders to try, so he offers the AIG 4 years for a far more heinous crime… and he takes it, because no matter how well his lawyer fought, 2-4 years later, he’d be doing 20… the state just doesn’t have the resources to take rich people to jail for 20 years.

  3. ytownwf
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Wow, 15 years! That’s terrible. Granted he did rob a bank while implying that he had a weapon, however, 15 years is a disgrace. It sounds like the prosecutor is trying to change his image as a liberal, reading, pussy.

  4. Robert
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    PBS’s FRONTLINE had a pretty good episode this week which shows how stupid and corrupt investigators and court officials can be.

  5. Peter Larson
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Our justice system works really well to lock up black people.

  6. TeacherPatti
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Totally about access to justice. There has been some murmuring about this in the Detroit newspapers; specifically, how public defenders are overworked, underpaid and so on (stuff we probably have already heard before but bears repeating…is that spelled “bears”? That looks wrong to me). When I was in the legal field, I know that lawyers would fight for appointed cases from judges. There were some counties where, rumor had it, you best plea out every case lest the judge actually have to have a trial. If you didn’t play the game, you soon found yourself not getting appointments from that judge. I never did this time of law so I can’t confirm, but I heard this more than once. Lawyers were and are a dime a dozen and so competition for these appointments was often fierce. The more you churned through, the more money you made. There usually wasn’t money (or time) for investigations, scientific based evidence and so on. So, folks like the bank robber got the shaft while our AIG boy got the sweetheart deal.
    Having said that, I want to say that personally, some of the legal defense lawyers were the hardest working folks I ever met. I could never do their job. In my experience, public defender should not be a negative term…,

  7. ytownwf
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    “Our justice system works really well to lock up black people.”

    Because they are all innocent, just ask anyone who has been arrested.

  8. Robert
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Stupid people ruin everything, not just the justice system.

  9. John Galt
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Like it or not, the prison industry is one of the only industries that is growing in America at the moment? This is not the time to stop that growth. We need jobs. If anything, we should be pushing for prisons to be built more quickly. A prison can act as an economic hub for a region. Imagine if we had a prison on Water Street. Imagine the growth in related jobs. We’d need guards, people to string barbed wire, and people to scrub the toilets. We’d need bars where people could eat and drink after visiting their loved ones. We’d need grave diggers. We’d need a store were guards could buy tinted sunglasses. It would spark an incredible amount of entrepreneurial activity, and, what’s more, we could use the prisoners to do things like build roads and skyscrapers. They could also have prison rodeos to entertain us. My advice is not to look into this gift horses mouth, but to enjoy it.

  10. John Galt-er
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    John Galt, what are you, some kind of gay Muslim socialist?

    The only reason we need prisons is to have a place to put people who break the law. But, every REAL CONSERVATIVE knows that “rules” and “laws” are nothing but a conspiracy cooked up by atheist, intellectual elites to keep REAL AMERICANS (and especially the rich) from doing whatever they please, whenever they please, however they please — without fear of consequences — just as Jesus intended.

    Frankly, I can’t wait until Sarah Palin becomes our permanent President, and gets to work getting rid of the Constitution, the Congress, and all those stupid man-made laws.

  11. Andy C
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    At least he’s no longer homeless. Maybe he can learn to be a real criminal in prison. Now he has a record, he’ll never get a job.

  12. Kim
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of corporate criminals and how they get off easy, Matt Taibi has a new article in Rolling Stone on the banks and the courts working together to speed up the foreclosure process and kick people out of their homes.

  13. Posted November 12, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    John G is being extremely sarcastic, but he’s right. Country communities beg for prisons to be built in their areas. I lived in Adrian. There are three prisons there and without them, half of Lenawee county would have no place to work.

    Of course the right has no problem throwing money at prisons. I never hear anyone accusing prison guards of sucking from the public trough in the way that teachers and scientists are. It’s a sad day when putting money into schools is seen as un-American but building and working in prisons is completely patriotic.

  14. Stephen
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    That’s a great last sentence, Peter.

    As for me, I look forward to the day when all Americans are born with the presumption of guilt and placed immediately under house arrest.

  15. Natalie Holbrook
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Check out the Michigan Campaign for Justice–working to reform public defense in the state of MI–at

    Also, my American Friends Service Committee colleagues in Arizona are doing great work around the problem of privatization in AZ and working to stop prison construction. You can follow their efforts at

    If this man was to spend 15 years in prison, in Michigan, that would cost taxpayers/the state of MI approximately $450,000 (with an avg cost per prisoner$30,000 per year). Is $100 worth it? Even if we are punishing the man for the moments of fear the bank teller went through when this dude robbed the bank teller is 15 years and $450,000 worth it?

    I can tell you I do not feel safer or better knowing this man is locked up. Instead, I am appalled at the injustice, racism, and classism that permeates our “justice” system. Until we [and we means all of us; poor people, rich people, white people, people of color, young folks from everywhere–the “hard” neighborhoods, the affluent neighborhoods, etc] have in depth conversations about what safety and survival mean for various people in various communities and take steps to remedy our current sentencing policies and over-reactionary tendencies as a public, we will continue to rely on prisons to deal with multi-layered societal inequities and problems and we will continue to rely on prisons to create jobs for people.

  16. Posted November 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Reading this is like watching 60 minutes I never know what to do with this bad information.
    It makes my stomach hurt.

  17. Posted November 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    um I don’t mean the information is bad but that the news it brings me is sad.

    Gosh I make almost no sense sometimes.

  18. Posted November 12, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I would rather take 15 lashes than spend a single year in prison. Plus, it’s cheaper, and there’s less butt rape. Bringing back flogging is an idea whose time has come.

  19. Posted November 12, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    The other thing you’ve got to consider is the possibility that the homeless guy was trying to get into prison in the first place. Don’t scoff, it happens. A lot of people have nothing to go back to outside of prison, so they just keep doing stuff to get back in. Maybe not what happened here, but it happens. 3 hots and a cot in prison.

  20. Posted November 14, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughts on this, everyone. And thank you, Natalie, for making this your life’s work.

  21. Posted November 14, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    In today’s news:

    As the Department of Justice (DOJ) employee tasked with overseeing the federal government’s detention operations, Stacia Hylton awarded exclusive contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to private prison companies that profit from incarcerating Americans.

    Now, even after it was revealed she made more than $112,000 this year as a consultant to one of those very for-profit prison companies, President Obama has nominated her to to one of the country’s top law enforcement positions: head of the U.S. Marshals…

    Read more here.

  22. Outraged in Detroit
    Posted January 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    this is nothing. have you heard about the young woman in detroit who is being tried as a black man?

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