In the Land of the Free, one-quarter of the entire planet’s prison population, some 2.2 million people, currently languish behind bars; yet, an astonishing number of them — around 2 million — have never been to trial. Indeed, these figures categorically debunk the notion the criminal justice system in the United States maintains any semblance of its formation’s original intent: to ensure the guilty suffer punishment befitting their crimes, while the innocent avoid false conviction.
As the fundamental basis for the justice system in the United States, the Sixth Amendment states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”
Justice, as an untold — though no doubt, appalling — number can attest, has been utterly abandoned for the interests of the careless expedience, apathetic convenience, and unabashed profiteering of the U.S. prison-industrial machine.
“The reality is that almost no one who is imprisoned in America has gotten a trial,” explains award-winning journalist, Chris Hedges, in a recent Truthdig column. “There is rarely an impartial investigation. A staggering 97 percent of all federal cases and 95 percent of all state felony cases are resolved through plea bargaining.” Of those millions who bargained away their right to a trial by accepting plea deals, “significant percentages of them are innocent.”