Death Row Prisoners

Hello Readers,

Thank you for checking back! In my last post, I talked about people that support the death penalty, and their reasoning in doing so. For today’s post, I want to consider capital punishment in terms of the prisoners who are acquitted. Throughout my research, I have been finding so much information about mental illness with regards to the death penalty. The Death Penalty Information Center explains that,

“The Supreme Court held in Ford v. Wainwright (477 U.S. 399 (1986)) that executing the insane is unconstitutional. However, if an inmate’s mental competency has been restored, he or she can then be executed.  Inmates who are intellectually disabled (mentally retarded) also cannot be executed.  Inmates who are mentally ill, but not insane, have no such exemption.”

While the Supreme Court ruling addressed the insane, it neglects a whole group of people who can still be suffering from severe mental illness. That being said, I encourage you to look at this article giving specific examples of people struggling with mental illnesses who were still committed to death. In many of these examples, the person does have aggressive tendencies, and doesn’t have the ability to tell right from wrong. Not to mention that once a person realizes what she or he did wrong, they can be executed for that crime.

Also, even though I don’t have the ability to discuss it at length here, I encourage you to find information about the role of racial bias in capital punishment, especially here in North Carolina.

What do you guys think about this? Please comment below with your thoughts, and let me know whether this new information might change any possible thoughts you had about capital punishment!

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Implications of private prisons

Based on the research that I’ve done on private prisons, it is apparent that if nothing is done to reform them, there will be negative results in the incarceration system.  Studies performed on the growth of private prisons points to more and people being held in these facilities without a visible end.  This includes the immigrants that keep being funneled into the prisons.  Secondly, as the industry continues to grow, I think the problem with cutting corners on the worker compensation and amenities provided for the prisoners will continue to worsen.  Who’s to say that the amenities will be cut to an almost unlivable level.  Finally, if nothing is done to change the private prison system, and its influence continues to grow, I believe that these corporations will use their increased influence to  get more and more prisoners for less and less crimes.  They have already been documented paying judges to send kids to prison.  What else could they do if there is no reformation?

The Future of Defendants’ Rights – Implication Post

If defendants’ legal rights are not extended to treat people equally, then accused people who are unable to afford legal services will continue to be discriminated against.

People who cannot afford bail and court fees will still receive additional punishment such as being sent to jail while people who can afford to pay fees will avoid punishment. In the last five years, 48 states have increased the amount of criminal and civil court fees. Many defendants now have to pay for legal services that should be free such as public defenders, supervision during probation, or electronic monitoring. Defendants even have to pay room, board, and cost of care in prisons. The trend of increasing court fees will continue to occur if defendants’ rights are not addressed and the court system are not properly funded. Increasing court fees will worsen the problem by forcing more people in jail for not being able to pay the court system.

Similarly, people who can afford attorneys will continue to receive much better protection than people who cannot afford attorneys and have to be appointed public defenders. According to the NLADA, people who cannot hire private lawyers are appointed public defenders that have excessive caseloads and have limited resources due to underfunding.

Discriminating against the poor in the criminal justice system will create a cycle that punishes people without money. If a poor person is accused of a crime, he or she will be more likely to go to prison because of a overworked public defender or being unable to pay court fees. This will lead to an increase in prison populations and make the criminal justice system more expensive for states, thus forcing them to further increase court fees.

Support for Capital Punishment?

Dear readers,

I apologize for the extreme delay in my blog posts, life has thrown a few unexpected curveballs my way this past week. As a reminder, my last post talked about how the death penalty is actually much more costly than life imprisonment, and discussed whether economic factors have a place in the ethical capital punishment debate.

In today’s post, I want to talk about how many people in our country are in favor of the death penalty. A Gallup poll shows that in the United States, the current support for the death penalty is 60%, with a noticeable partisan difference, where 81% of Republicans but only 47% of Democrats are in favor of capital punishment. Personally, these statistics surprised me, as I would’ve guessed these numbers to be lower. So I started looking into reasons why people voted this way, and found some of the arguments that support the death penalty.

Some of the reasons surprised me, yet again. According to another Gallup poll, one of the most fundamental arguments in favor of the death penalty is to “save taxpayers money”, which is interesting considering my last post, which said that this is a misconception. Additionally, other common arguments were that “they deserve it” (which refers back to my second post, where instead of mercy, being shown, we function on a system of justice alone), and that capital punishment proves as an example to other potential criminals, thus lowering crime rates. I found a separate article that disproves that statement, saying that “there still remains a lack of consensus among researchers on the effect of capital punishment as a crime deterrent.”

What do you guys think? Do you think that these arguments are legitimate? Did any of this surprise you?

Private Prisons aren’t the only problem

This being my last weekly post, I’d like to use it as a medium to explain that more than private prison reform is necessary.  This article highlights the fact that private prisons have grown and definitely have negative implications.  It even said that phone calls are one dollar for every minute that a prisoner is talking on the phone.  So, private prisons are not getting any better as of now.  However, it is apparent that even if every private prison suddenly disappeared, the United States would still have the largest prison system in the world.  Also, as the private prison industry has grown, the public prison system has grown more:

private_prison_growth_to_2014

Articles such as this have lead to speculation that the initiatives made by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as candidates would not help the overall issue of the prison system.  There’s no doubt that candidates beginning to acknowledge the problem and try to make changes is a step in the right direction, however I believe that more needs to be done to fix the fact that the US has the largest prison system in the world.  The article mentioned above makes some great suggestions about more electronic monitoring and private probation services that would allow less non-violent criminals to be out of the prison system.

What do you think could be done to fix the US’s problem of mass incarceration?

Theory Post – Pretrial Services Programs

In my previous posts, I discussed various political views on the issue of defendants’ legal rights in court. Some groups believe that defendants, especially those who cannot afford to pay for legal services, are not given enough rights in court. These groups want reforms that increase the rights of defendants because the current system violates many rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Other groups say that states do not have enough money to set up new programs to expand the rights of defendants. States already have to charge defendants court fees in order to finance their courts.

In order to solve this deeply divided issue, there must be a compromise between both sides in which small increases in defendants’ rights are made without spending large amounts of money. The first issue that should be addressed is if a person cannot afford to pay bail. The compromise that can be used to solve this problem is the implementation of pretrial services programs, which can be used to investigate the arrested individual to see if he or she is at risk of fleeing from trial or dangerous to the general public. According to Court & Community, these investigations are used as recommendations to a judge who decides whether the accused person can be sent home, needs to be monitored and supervised, or should be sent to jail. The National Institute of Justice suggests that pretrial services programs “can minimize unnecessary pretrial detention, reduce jail crowding, increase public safety, ensure that released defendants appear for scheduled court events, and lessen invidious discrimination between rich and poor.” The implementation of pretrial services programs benefit groups that want to increase defendants’ rights because it mostly eliminates the issue of excessive bail stated in the Eighth Amendment because investigations by pretrial services officers can allow people accused with minor crimes to be sent home without having to pay bail if they pose little risk. It also helps the groups that want to limit spending because pretrial services programs will reduce overcrowding in jails. This decrease in costs will also allow courts to decrease the amount of court fees they charge defendants. Another solution is to administer electronic monitoring systems. The Yale Law Journal suggests that electronic monitoring reduces fugitive rates by allowing the defendant to be easily located. It also can reduce state government expenditures by reducing the number of defendants that have to be detained.

 

Private Prison Theory: What can be done?

My most recent post, the analysis of private prisons, explained the two different sides of private prisons.  The two sides are very simple: those for private prisons and those against them.  I’d love to give my readers a two sided argument that shows what both sides can do to make a compromise, however it seems that private prisons simply need reformation in order justify their existence.

Primarily, I’d like to reference the website of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).  A statement pulled from their site:

At CCA, we are committed to operating facilities that benefit taxpayers, support economic growth, generate local tax revenue, and provide stable, well-paying jobs with advancement opportunities.

A mentioned in my previous post, almost every one of these “commitments” they mention has been severely refuted by numerous studies.  The only statement that can be supported is the fact that these prisons do provide jobs.  However, the “well-paying” portion may have to be removed as this article states that even workers’ salaries are subject cuts in an attempt to increase profits.  Basically, I believe that if private prisons actually attempt to accomplish these statements, they could be a beneficial aspect to the Judiciary system in the US.

Also, immigrants should not be handed over to private prisons.  The Obama administration has been funneling immigrants into these facilities and even is attempting to certify them as housing facilities.  It is immoral to take advantage of families, including innocent children, by using them as a means to gain money.  Perhaps, these companies could create facilities that actually deserve certification as housing units.  This way, the immigrants could be housed in actual, suitable facilities rather than prisons.

Finally, politicians should stop accepting campaign contributions from private prison groups until necessary reforms are made.  This step has already been taken by Hillary Clinton in her campaign.  If politicians ended the influence that private prisons are able to create, the corporations may make changes in order to receive financial aid/support.

Private prisons have a long way to go before they can be advocated as a beneficial aspect of the U.S. Judiciary system.  However, if reformations are made, I think they could provide valuable jobs to local citizens and offer the government aid with overcrowding.  Not to mention, if the immigrant housing was actually created, this could solve a major problem.  As of now, private prisons should be abolished.  However, with certain changes, or even state supervision, they could be an integral part of the U.S. Judiciary system.