Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Charged" - ending mass incarceration (NPR)

Emily Bazelon, (Fresh Air); Pfc. Sandoval, S. Auberon, Crystal Q., Wisdom Quarterly

More that 2 million people were incarcerated in the U.S. in 2016. Prosecutors -- not judges -- are responsible for many of these prison sentences (Juan Camilo Bernal/Getty Images).

Charged explains how prosecutors and plea bargains promote mass incarceration
Read excerpt: Charged (Emily Bazelon)
The U.S. prison population is booming [and this mass incarceration is profitable for a select few].

It is estimated nearly 2.2 million people were incarcerated in America in 2016, and as many people in the U.S. have criminal records as have graduated from four-year colleges.
Journalist and Yale Law Lecturer Emily Bazelon attributes America's high incarceration rates to prosecutors more than judges.

She says that in the 1980s, back when crime was on the rise, legislators across the country passed laws with mandatory minimum sentences that have disproportionately affected black and brown communities.
"That set up prosecutors to be able to determine the punishment by the charge they bring in," Bazelon says. "And so we're still living with that change — even though crime has really fallen since that time."

Bazelon notes that the majority of court cases — more than 90 percent — end in a plea bargain rather than a trial, which gives prosecutors even more power.

"You see this kind of haggling over plea bargains in the hallway, not in open court," she says. As for a defendant's guilt or innocence? "Honestly, people don't even really talk about those things."

Bazelon spent 2 1/2 years reporting on the Brooklyn district attorney's office. Her new book, Charged, examines the power of prosecutors and looks at alternatives to bail, plea bargains and incarceration. More

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