Plea Bargaining A Ploy in U.S. INjustice System
In the U.S. criminal injustice system, plea bargaining is far more common than convictions based on evidence.
Two articles in CHALLENGE (3/12) described struggles at Chicago Transit and DC Metro, respectively, against the firing of, or failure to hire drivers and mechanics who were convicted of a felony. The pretext given by the two transit systems is “protection of passengers.” But PLP in both cities have exposed the falsehood of this claim by showing that there is no evidence that they pose any such danger.
PLP has also shown that the transit policies are extremely racist, since the number of people convicted of felonies among black and Latino workers is disproportionately higher than for white workers. This is due to the outrageous racism in the injustice system in which far more black and Latino workers are arrested and convicted of felonies than are white workers, though the same injustice also affects many white workers, and indeed others.
However, one vital point must be added to these otherwise excellent articles. The DC article stated, “...more black and Latino workers...are arrested and convicted at higher rates [emphasis added].” It is important to recognize that to be convicted of a crime does not mean one was found guilty by either a judge or a jury based on evidence presented in a trial. The technical legal definition of conviction includes plea bargaining, in which the accused is coerced into confessing to a crime of which they were actually innocent.
Some day the international working class, under communist leadership, will make this criminal system pay for their outrageous “crimes against humanity.” But we should never assume that someone who has a record as a felon was ever convicted based on evidence in a trial — as they will be the first to tell you, and in most cases truthfully so. The odds are overwhelming that they were coerced into a confession — almost 20 or 30 to 1.
How does this coercion work? It arises from an indication by the prosecutor that the accused is going to be charged with an even greater crime that carries a much longer sentence, if not the death penalty. This is done frequently, even though the prosecutor knows fully well the person is innocent of this greater crime. This vicious ploy is used to force a confession to a lesser crime, in order get it over with quickly without the need for a time-and-money-consuming trial.
Of course, even in the course of a trial many innocent workers are convicted because of a combination of false evidence planted by police, prejudice on the part of judge and/or jury, and/or an incompetent or uncaring public defender or other defense lawyer, among other possible reasons.
Convictions by trial are, in fact, very rare in the making of felons, on both the federal and state levels. A majority of prisoners turned into felons are put in that position not on the basis of trials, but rather of plea bargains. In fact, an article in the Wall Street Journal (9/23/12), titled “Federal Guilty Pleas Soar As Bargains Trump Trials,” reports that in 2011, 97 percent of federal cases were resolved through plea bargains rather than trial convictions. The Bureau of Justice Assistance states the same approximate percentage applies at the state level.
Plea bargains are a trick used by prosecutors all over the U.S, who — with impunity and without fear of retaliation from the working class (in the absence of a revolution) — can accuse arrested workers of any crime they choose to invent, with punishments that involve many years in prison. When caught red-handed, they claim that they do this to unclog the overstressed court system in the face of huge numbers of arrests by cops. But they mainly use such methods to increase their numbers of convictions in order to advance their own political careers. They even use false accusations and plea bargaining against their political rivals for office. Civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate’s 2009 book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, fully describes this unstoppable criminality by prosecutors.
We are well aware that cops plant evidence all the time in order to obtain convictions or, more often, to promote fear-inspired plea bargaining. Funding of police departments is proportional to the number of arrests and “convictions,” which is falsely taken as a measure of need — the more arrests the more money allotted. But the equally criminal behavior of prosecutors is less known publicly.
It is futile to expect justice from a racist system. The racist courts clearly do not function in the interest of the working class. There will come a day when the working class will demolish the bosses’ injustice system.
Bosses Stamp on Food for Workers
We have to be aware that the problem of food stamps has been cooking for some time now. The principle ingredients are government privatization and government politicians.
The end result is a stew in the form of reduction of resources for families of low income while, at the same time, the rich and their politicians line their pockets and fill bloated stomachs. They are not in our shoes and will never comprehend our necessities.
I believe that we shouldn’t wait any longer. We have to defend our rights day in and day out and support the less fortunate. We are people and not animals and that as part of the working class, we have the right to demand respect.
Enough with abuse of power: we want a real change, not the usual lies. We will not stumble over and over again with the same false promises. We are fighters and as fighters, we will continue to fight fascism here.
Get Off Rulers’ Treadmill
September 13 will forever be remembered as when Mexico’s corrupt parties such as the PRI, PAN, PRO and PT, the number one loyal servants of the capitalists, showed us once again the kind of politicians we have here. This is the future that awaits us and our children of the working class unless we rebel.
The teachers are not intimidated because they have confronted this problem with sharp struggle that has given them the force and courage to face this and raise their voices for their rights.
If we don’t fight to make a change we will continue on a treadmill from one generation to the next. All of us exploited by capitalism need to leave as an inheritance to our children the defense of our rights in this country.
Let’s make a call to the working class worldwide to always unite in support of each other in the fight for social equality and for communism .
Where there is unity, there is a solution!
Forward to Clean Up the Garbage of Capitalism
Re: “The Mass Fight Against Public School Privatization in Mexico,” Oct. 16, 2013:
I am a mother involved in the fight for a better education for my kids and other students who have suffered from a mediocre education filled with obstacles keeping them from advancing.
The government complains about the reaction and protests from the teachers and community but because of their lack of respect they leave us no other option. They want to keep us as puppets and take away the right to our opinions. They defend privatization not just for the schools but for everything that affects the working class. Now is the moment to act and unite our forces.
We know that the political parties in Mexico are self-serving and corrupt. They ascend their throne without caring that the poorest and hardest workforce of their country should suffer from hunger and lack of medical attention while the bosses and their politicians enjoy the profits stolen from all the citizens.
I invite every person that is suffering all this — do not stay quiet! Everyone can raise their voice to be heard because there will always be someone to support you and together we can clean up all this garbage. Don’t surrender. Let’s continue forward.
How Racism Spoils Baltimore Food Market
Recently, the Baltimore Sun has been writing about the Lexington Market, which is a large public marketplace that’s been there since 1782. The Sun’s recent coverage about the market has been one-sided, and borders on being racist. The reportage about the Market has focused almost exclusively on negative things, talking about “middle-income shoppers who abandoned” the Market, and “hoped-for” shoppers who currently avoid it “whether because of discomfort with the setting, dissatisfaction with the offerings or both.”
But that’s not how the Lexington Market seems to me and many of our friends.
I am a teacher at one of our city’s public high schools. Each year, for more than three decades, I have taken my English students to Central Pratt Library for a full day kicking off the work on their research papers. For many of those years, at lunchtime, we have walked to the market. Just last month, we conducted one of these scholarly field trips, with about 100 students, and, as usual, we had a really nice lunchtime experience. In fact, students from another school happened to be there at the same time, officially on stage, performing in honor of Black History Month. Many diners enthusiastically watched the performances from the second-floor seating area.
Of course, like all things, the Market could improve. It would be nice, for example, to be able to buy unsweetened iced tea, not just the sugary variety, as part of the delicious “half-and-half” beverages which are locally unique and mixed-to-order at one of the Market’s customer-friendly stalls.
I went to Lexington Market recently for lunch with a former teaching colleague, now retired. While waiting for at a stall, I got into a conversation with the gentleman in front of me. He recruits at local high schools for Hampton University. He joined us for lunch. The Market was bustling, and we had to look hard to find a table for three.
A young man passing by noticed our grey hair, tapped one of us on the shoulder and, with a sincere and respectful smile, said, “There’s a lot of wisdom at this table!” It was quite a tribute. The young man was black; we three elders were a multi-racial group, two black and one white.
It seems to me that what the recent Sun articles are really saying is not that too few people go to Lexington Market, but that too high a percentage of the diners and shoppers are black. It reminds me of the racial make-up of the teaching force in Baltimore City. When I began teaching in the 1970s, the vast majority of public-school educators in Baltimore were black, serving as great role models for our predominately black student population.
Now, however, utilizing large numbers of teachers from Teach-for-a-Minute (the program’s real name is Teach for America, but the nickname is more accurate) and by other means, the forces controlling our city have significantly reduced the percentage of black teachers, who have dwindled to being a minority of the staff. This unfavorable transformation has been engendered purposely even though 84 percent of our students are black.
Are The Sun and its owners now seeking to racially transform Lexington Market? Is that what this is really all about? If not, why are stories like mine, about years of good experiences at the Market, largely absent from The Sun’s coverage?
Lack Valid Criticism on Syria
In the letter (3/26) entitled “Syria Editorial Misleading,” the two comrades seem to have overlooked or misunderstood most of the points made in the 2/12 Editorial.
First, the letter says that the word “capitalist” is not mentioned even once in the article when, in fact, it appears twice, and in the very first paragraph.
Second, in the next-to-last paragraph, the letter says the article is weak in pointing out how shifting imperialist alliances only aided the needs of the ruling classes. However, the article’s title, “Syria: Centuries of Repression, Division and Exploitation” and most of its content are devoted to how colonial and imperialist powers have done exactly that.
Finally, in the last paragraph, the letter says the article omits an explanation of internal class conflicts in Syria or any other Middle East country. On the other hand, the article discusses the role of the “Communist” Party in the internal politics of Syria and the region and how nationalist, religious and ethnic divisions have led to workers fighting other workers against their own class interests.
The letter makes a correct point that it would have been better if the article had said “The French rulers” instead of “The French,” but that doesn’t negate the lack of validity in most of the criticism. Our Party’s growth depends on our ability to promote criticism and self-criticism. More collective discussion by letter writers and editors is needed.