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Every public institution in the United States and most private ones are corrupt. To tell this story would be a multi-book task. Lawrence Stratton and I have written one small volume of the story. Our book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, now with two editions and multiple printings, documents the corruption of law in the United States and has been cited in rulings by Federal District and Appeal Court judges.
Law is just one public institution, but it is a corner stone of society. When law goes, everything goes.
Only about 4 % of federal felony cases go to trial. Almost all, 96 %, are settled by negotiated plea bargains. Law & Order Conservatives condemn plea bargains for the wrong reason. They think plea bargains let criminals off easy. In fact, plea bargains are used by prosecutors to convict the innocent along with the guilty. Plea bargains eliminate juries and time-consuming trials, that is, plea bargains eliminate all work on the part of prosecutors and police and lead to high conviction rates for prosecutors, the main indicator of their career success. Once upon a time, prosecutors pursued justice. They carefully examined police investigations and only indicted suspects whose conviction they thought could be obtained by a jury. Sloppy police work was discarded.
No more. Once indicted and provided with a lawyer, the defendant learns that his lawyer has no intention of defending him before a jury. The lawyer knows that the chances of getting even a totally innocent defendant found not guilty is slim to non-existent. Prosecutors, with the consent of judges, suborn perjury for which they are permitted to pay with money and dropped charges against real criminals, and prosecutors routinely withhold evidence favorable to the defendant. If a prosecutor detects that a defendant intends to fight, the prosecutor piles on charges until the defendant’s lawyer convinces the defendant that no jury will dismiss all of so many charges and that the one or two that the jury convicts on will bring a much longer sentence than the lawyer can negotiate. The lawyer tells the defendant that if you go to trail, you will be using up the time of prosecutors and judges, and the inconvenience that you cause them will send you away for many a year.
In some state and local courts it is still possible on occasion to get an almost fair trial if you can afford an attorney well enough connected to provide it. But even in non-federal courts the system is stacked against the defendant. Many prisons have been privatized, and privatized prisons require high incarceration rates in order to be profitable. The same holds for juvenile detention prisons. Not long ago two Pennsylvania judges were convicted for accepting payments from private detention prisons for each kid they sentenced.