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America's Prisons: A Look at Some of the Problems

December 29, 2017, on Criminal Defense Articles |

A Schenectady criminal defense attorney provides help to defendants accused of criminal offenses. The goal of a defense attorney is to work with clients to maximize the chances that a conviction can be prevented and prison or jail can be avoided. A defense attorney can also provide help negotiating a plea agreement with the goal of trying to reduce the potential severity of a sentence that could result from conviction.

Fighting charges is important because conviction often leads to incarceration. In fact, the Economist recently published an in-depth report arguing that the problem with prisons in the United States is that the country simply chooses to incarcerate too many people.

Economist Argues There are Problems with Prisons in America

According to the Economist, the incarceration rate in the United States is close to five times the incarceration rate in Britain, six time the incarceration rate in Canada, and 15 times the incarceration rate in Japan.  The Economist also indicates that these numbers don't tell the whole story either, as certain locations are far more likely to imprison people than others. For example, while the overall incarceration rate throughout America is 693 people incarcerated out of every 100,000 people, the incarceration rates in Washington DC, Georgia, and Louisiana are much higher with these locations locking up around one resident out of every 100.

The Economist profiled a former federal prosecutor from New York who provided a theory as to why incarceration rates are so high in America. His theory was set forth in a recent book, Blind Injustice, which highlights what he perceives to be problems in the justice system. 

According to the author, there are many different factors that contribute to mass incarceration in America.  The author explains that one such factor is tunnel vision, when people conform to the opinion that seems best for their team. As an example, he indicates that sometimes prosecutors deny requests for inmates for DNA testing even though DNA tests could possibly prove exculpatory or that prosecutors can sometimes be so focused on their efforts to convict that they forget the people they are dealing with are human. As an example, he cited a contest in which Chicago prosecutors tried to see who could be the first to indict 4,000 pounds worth of people, prompting prosecutors to be tougher in overweight defendants.

The author also identified other problems he believes contribute to mass incarceration, including a focus by elected officials of appearing tough on crime, as well as the increased use of private prisons which require people to continue to be incarcerated in order to remain profitable.

Regardless of the theories behind why mass incarceration happens, however, those accused of a crime face a more immediate and personal problem: they could add to the growing number of Americans behind bars if convicted. A Schenectady criminal defense attorney can help those accused of wrongdoing to try to fight conviction and incarceration so they can reduce the chances of becoming another one of the many people locked up in America.

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