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Andrea is a writer and researcher based out of Chicago. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in environmental science from The Ohio State University and a Master's in Environmental Planning and Management at National Taiwan University, where she specialized in climate adaptation and urbanization. She writes for TaiwaneseAmerican.org, and sends out a biweekly newsletter which includes articles on politics, environment, identity, and intersections of race, class, and gender (http://eepurl.com/bPv-F5).
The US incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other country like it. But that is only part of the issue with America's justice system. This is also the age of the plea bargain, where millions of Americans plea guilty to crimes they did not commit because it is somehow the most rational decision in their situations.
"Most people adjudicated in the criminal-justice system today waive the right to a trial and the host of protections that go along with one, including the right to appeal. Instead, they plead guilty. The vast majority of felony convictions are now the result of plea bargains—some 94 percent at the state level, and some 97 percent at the federal level. Estimates for misdemeanor convictions run even higher." Because trials are time-consuming and costly, people admit to crimes they didn't commit for "leniency." They run a risk of a much harsher sentence if they go to court and lose. So many behaviors are criminalized, taking every case to court would clog the gears of the entire system. People then have to spend their lives with the consequences of having criminal convictions, leading to difficulties with employment, loans, licenses and other opportunities.
This article contains many statistics about this issue and some of its legal history. It also tells us stories of the people it affects, who will never have a chance at a normal life because of intense policing, racist policies, and an ineffective justice system. It is a chilling illustration of just how broken and exploitative the American criminal justice system is.