Due Process is Dead: A Staggering 95% of All Inmates in America Have Never Received a Trial

prison-state-usaBy Claire Bernish

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.”

Plea bargaining failed in its attempt to facilitate pragmatic justice seen in earlier courts, before the advent of the “adversary system and the related development of the law of evidence,” as John H. Langein once described. After the Civil War, as Judge Jed S. Rakoff explained in the New York Review of Books, rising crime and immigration rates began to burden the system and plea bargains offered an acceptable solution. In other words, court proceedings were at one time swift and simple, and though such expediency might have seemed a desirable quality in the past, the incontrovertible reality at present is a system wholly focused on speed at the expense of the necessary — in fact, imperative — assumption of innocence of the accused.

Indeed, for incontrovertible proof the court system no longer functions for the people — neither in its capacity to protect the public from the actual criminals, nor in its ostensible assurances no innocent person will be punished unfairly — take even a cursory glance at the trial system. Plea bargains have actualized a replacement of justice with a farcical, well-oiled machine of incarceration. “In actuality,” as Rakoff described,

our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.

Of all federal criminal cases, “fewer than 3 percent went to trial. The plea bargains largely determined the sentences imposed.”

Plea deals are presented to defendants as a way to escape the near certainty of a heavy-handed sentence should they be found guilty by a jury at trial — because defense attorneys’ and prosecutors’ most pressing goal is to prevent a trial in the first place. “Once you are charged in America,” Hedges said, “whether you did the crime or not, you are almost always found guilty.”

In part, such ‘unconditional guilt’ begat the need for The Innocence Project — “a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.” Since 1989, there have been 337 DNA-related exonerations with individuals having served a combined total of around 4,606 unjustified years — an average of 14 years, each, before being freed. Of those 337 cases, 31 individuals, who had served over 150 combined years, “pled guilty to crimes they didn’t commit — usually seeking to avoid the potential for a long sentence (or a death sentence),” states The Innocence Project’s website.

“If all of the accused went to trial, the judicial system, which is designed around plea agreements, would collapse. And this is why trial sentences are horrific. It is why public attorneys routinely urge their clients to accept a plea arrangement. Trials are a flashing red light to the accused: DO NOT DO THIS. It is the inversion of justice.” Of the students he teaches in prison, those “who have the longest sentences are usually the ones who demanded a trial.”

While the rich and powerful, especially those associated with corporations and banks, are able to escape significant punishment — even when their crimes affect millions of people, such as those complicit in the 2008 financial crash — the poor, whether guilty or not, fall victim to this slanted system. As Hedges summarized:

If you are poor, you will be railroaded in an assembly-line production, from a town or city where there are no jobs, through the police stations, county jails and courts directly into prison. And if you are poor, because you don’t have any money for adequate legal defense, you will serve sentences that are decades longer than those for equivalent crimes anywhere else in the industrialized world … Being poor has become a crime. And this makes mass incarceration the most pressing civil rights issue of our era.

Claire Bernish writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com

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37 Comments on "Due Process is Dead: A Staggering 95% of All Inmates in America Have Never Received a Trial"

  1. Psychic Warrior | January 25, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Reply

    Further proof that capitalism supersedes the constitution and justice while promoting disenfranchisement – more handiwork of the alien/military/industrial/complex.

  2. Rise up Americans!
    Oh hang on you can’t, it’s too late.

  3. even if you can get an attorney most are lazy & crooked. Look into http://www.teamlaw.org to protect yourself.


  5. Kingdom Ambassador | January 26, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Reply

    This, thanks to the 18th-century founders replacing the 17th-century biblical governments of, by, and for God for their own humanistic government of, by, and for the people:

    “…Ezra 7:26 and Ecclesiastes 8:11’s references to speedy judgments indicate timely trials are intrinsic in Yahweh’s judicial system. Except as a means to hold suspects for trial, Yahweh’s law does not provide for jails or prisons. That, in itself, is an inherent demand for swift litigation. On the other hand, entitlement to a
    quick trial is seldom attainable under unbiblical juridical systems. The United States court system creates a vicious cycle that cannot be remedied. Because America is awash with “laws,”4 nearly everyone eventually becomes a criminal, and because today’s unbiblical juridical system provides inconsistent or no deterrents to criminals and perjurers, the courts are flooded with cases:

    ‘Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them [given fully, NASB] to do evil.’ (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

    “’Justice delayed is justice denied!’ Countless laws, minimal deterrence, and delayed and protracted trials multiply criminals. The more criminals,6 the more burdened the courts. The more burdened the courts, the slower justice. The slower justice, the less deterrence. The less deterrence, the more criminals…. It is a never-ending degenerative cycle. Today’s appellate system, which allows criminals’ numerous appeals, sometimes spanning years, exacerbates the problem. For example, it took ten years to finally put Ted Bundy, arguably America’s most notorious serial sexual murderer, to death. By that time, the deterrent was all but lost upon the generation most familiar with the case. Thus more criminals, more court cases, more delayed justice, less deterrence, more criminals. Eventually, society morally collapses.

    ‘Under Biblical government’s fewer laws and greater deterrence, far fewer criminals exist….”

    For more, Google online Chapter 15 “Amendment 6: Speedy Trials, Public Trials, and Impartial Juries” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.”

    • Good post. The Bible also tells us that God has put it into their hearts to give their kingdom to the beast so that the words of God will be fulfilled. God is just letting us get a strong lesson on what it means to have Satan as god of this world for now. It’s almost impossible in THIS world now to not join Satan to survive. What gets me through is knowing about the “coming” kingdom of God on this earth when Jesus returns. Then God’s laws and justice will be restored.

      • Gregory Alan of Johnson | January 26, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Reply

        We get to do that in His authority before His return.

        • I know we can try, but God is letting Satan take over the world for now so that Revelation will be fulfilled. Jesus said we would be persecuted for trying to spread the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. None of us wants to suffer, but if that’s what it takes to be a part of God’s kingdom — so be it. There’s a lot of things that could hold me to THIS life, but I’m trying to let go and let God guide my steps.

          • Kingdom Ambassador | January 27, 2016 at 8:54 am |

            Google blog article “Self-Imposed Impotence” and then “10 Reasons Why the Kingdom Here on Earth Isn’t Mission Impossible.”

          • Do you really think that the ruling elites would give up what they have without divine intervention? I seriously doubt it!

          • Kingdom Ambassador | January 29, 2016 at 7:31 am |

            Of course not.

      • Reread Weiland’s first paragraph. Do you know what he’s saying? Are you in favor of abolishing the U.S. Constitution? Read some of his other posts. He’s advertising all over the web for suckers to join his anti-Constitution campaign. Do you still think it’s a “good post”?

        • The Constitution for the United States of America has been dead for a long time.
          People no longer understand that the branches of government were to be under the U.S. Constitution.
          People no longer understand that the U.S. Constitution was to be under the people.
          People no longer understand that the people were to be under our Creator given rights that were partially described in the Declaration of Independence and in the Bill of Rights.
          We have strayed so far that we allow government to license us and control what we do, say, and think. We have forced non-therapeutic vaccines, fluoride in our water, and many other crimes that government commits against us.
          We have strayed so far that we have someone pretending to be the U.S. President that is not “natural born” and now four more like candidates to the office.
          We have sunk from our promised highest form of government, a Limited Constitutional Republic to the lowest of low that is even lower than anarchy.
          We have become a d-word and r-word government and brainwashed to believe that d-word and r-word governments are a good thing.
          d-word and r-word governments allow our enemy to use the force of government against us and they don’t hesitate to do just that.
          We need to restore the Constitution for the United States of America.
          We need to throw-off our enslavement that is killing productivity.
          We need to demand and embrace freedom with its prosperity.
          We need to again strive for a Limited Constitutional Republic.
          We need to convict and imprison all traitors which includes most of the U.S. Congress and many from the other branches, alphabet agencies, and governments of our nation states.

          • AMEN and we are running out of time.

          • Kingdom Ambassador | January 29, 2016 at 7:38 am |

            “…3. Every problem America faces today can be traced back to the fact
            that the framers failed to expressly establish a government upon
            Yahweh’s immutable morality as codified in His commandments, statutes,
            and judgments. (Would infanticide and sodomy be tolerated, let alone
            financed by the government, if Yahweh’s perfect law and altogether
            righteous judgments were the law of the land? Would Islam be a looming
            threat to our peace and security if the First Amendment had been
            replaced with the First Commandment? Would Americans be in nearly as
            much debt if usury had been outlawed as a form of theft? Would crime be
            as rampant if “cruel and unusual punishment” had not been outlawed and
            criminals were instead punished with Yahweh’s altogether righteous
            judgments? Would we be on the fiscal cliff if we were taxed with a flat
            increase tax rather than a graduated income tax?)….”

            For more, Google blog article “5 Reasons the Constitution is Our Cutting-Edge Issue.”

          • Hey Weiland, you keep saying, “…every problem America faces today can be traced back to the fact that the framers failed to expressly establish a government upon Yahweh’s immutable morality…”

            When a government WAS established on Yahweh’s morality, how did that work out?

            IT DIDN’T WORK OUT!

            Read the Old Testament.

            So bugger off. You don’t have a superior way. You are just raising money for your own stinking pockets.

          • psychicbloodbrother | January 30, 2016 at 9:12 am |

            The constitution is but parchment. What has died is those than animate it. We must choose to be free and virtuous for the constitution to work.

        • Even John Adams said that the Constitution was written for a moral and religious people and that it wouldn’t work for any other. The reason it stopped working is because we are no longer a moral and religious country. IF our politicians followed the Constitution we wouldn’t have so many problems. I don’t want to abolish the Constitution but for our politicians and states to follow it.

          • Kingdom Ambassador | January 29, 2016 at 7:34 am |

            President John Adams wrote that: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

            This is an accurate quotation. However, it’s often employed by Christians as if Adams was referring to Christianity and Yahweh’s morality as codified in His
            commandments, statutes, and judgments. This is untrue. Adams emphasized that
            the same “moral liberty resides in Hindoos and Mohametans, as well as in
            Christians” (John Adams, Letter no. 13 to John Taylor (1814), in “Works of John
            Adams,” 6:474.)

            He once asked, “Where is to be found theology more orthodox or phylosophy [sic]
            more profound than in the introduction to the [Hindu] Shast[r]a?” (John Adams,
            December 25, 1813, letter to Jefferson, in “Adams-Jefferson Letters,” 2:412.)

            According to Adams, “religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and in all the combinations of human society.” (August 28, 1811, letter to Benjamin
            Rush, in “Works of John Adams,” 9:636.)

            Any nation’s constitution and government benefits from moral Christian citizens, even those nations whose constitution are not based upon Yahweh’s morality as found in His perfect law and altogether righteous judgments (Psalm 19:7-9) – such as the United States of America. However, when such constitutions are not based upon Yahweh’s law, it is inevitable that such nations will become more and more
            immoral and corrupt, being they do not have a Biblical standard to fall back
            upon. Case in point, the United States of America today.

          • The fact is that the US people in general have turned into an entitlement mentality with little thought for their fellow man. I see it in the quality of work people do for others like building homes (for example). My father taught me that you do the best job you can no matter what you are doing or what you get paid. That is not the attitude of most workers today. Especially the younger generations. Most do not want to do any manual labor and they expect CEO wages with no experience. It seems to be a generally selfish attitude that carries over to everything in their lives.

            When I was a kid most people didn’t worry about locking their cars everywhere they went. Now, you don’t dare leave your car unlocked. I’ve asked people who steal why they do it and they say it’s because they wanted it. No guilt or remorse. They see nothing wrong with taking things that belong to someone else. It seems our politicians think the same way.

            I blame a lot of this attitude on the schools who reward kids for just showing up. When these kids are not taught to be responsible for their own actions, of course they don’t have any guidelines to live by.

            Religion teaches morals and at one time people were afraid to break the laws of God — whatever their religion happens to be. As our Bible says — there will be a great falling away in these end times. I think with most people God is some distant figure that doesn’t affect their lives so they don’t care about God’s law and it shows in what is happening to this country.

            Our Founders expected the people to elect others who had a strong moral character so that they would deal with the governed as if they were their own family. The simple commandment that Jesus taught — love your neighbor!

          • If your problem with the U.S. Constitution is that it is “not based upon Yahweh’s law”, I would argue that Yahweh’s law which is designed to guide His children back to heaven is not designed to, nor does it have sufficient description of a self governing republic’s government. For instance, nowhere in the Bible do we have the description of a government with checks and balances as our inspired Framers devised.

            Perhaps your position is that we should do away with the system of checks and balances. What then, Weiland? How do we limit those of our brothers and sisters who choose and are chosen to rule us? We all see the many attempts of Obama to grab power. Many failed thanks to the U.S. Constitution and the rest are being challenged with the U.S. Constitution as the authority.

            You continually campaign against the U.S. Constitution, but you have nothing better to replace it. You are a complainer without a solution.

          • Hey Weiland, you keep saying, “…every problem America faces today
            can be traced back to the fact that the framers failed to expressly
            establish a government upon Yahweh’s immutable morality…”

            When a government WAS established on Yahweh’s morality, how did that work out?

            IT DIDN’T WORK!

            Read the Old Testament.

            So bugger off. You don’t have a superior way. You are just raising money for your own stinking pockets.

          • You are correct in my opinion. I just don’t think the Constitution has stopped working all together quite yet. It has stopped Obama several times. We don’t need to throw it out, just strengthen it against the liberal progressive forces that are working to corrode it.

      • psychicbloodbrother | January 30, 2016 at 9:10 am | Reply

        On the surface Ted and his minions sound great. But once you dig into the arguments you realize they are peddling a website with an equivocation fallacy. the premise is that the Bible does not equal the Constitution, therefore the constitution needs to be destroyed. Ted and his minions are committed to theocracy and they don’t mind if they diminish the bible or the constitution in the process. Remember fundamentally that the Constitution and the bible are alike in some ways making some of the equivocations plausible…they are written on paper is one of them. The difference with the bible is there is a spiritual component where the these things are written on your heart and in your mind. For example Christians have to choose the spirit, similar to Americans have to choose to be virtuous for it to work. Neither work without a religious and morale people freely choosing the virtuous life. The false equivocations seem to point to Ted and his minions wanting to force things on people and purport a religious test which comes off as perfectionism plain and simple. In this way Karl Marx was a perfectionist who loved the tenets of Christianity but rejected the spiritual component. Central planners are all about force, the bible and the constitution are about freedom. It boils down to a choice. Ted and his minions have staked out a position that diminishes both in some unseemly ways which i detest. This myth making group seeks conformity like all of the central planners who build their house on sinking sand. The truth shall set you free.

  6. As it said in this article — plea bargains started after the Civil War. Actually, a lot of this country’s problems were stated during and after that war. Not only did it beat several of the states into submission but the people also by taking away their State’s rights for a number of years. It showed that our freedom could be taken away by force and intimidated the people of once free states that the government was stronger. Hundreds of thousands of people got poorer or died while the banks got richer. It’s been that way ever since.

    • psychicbloodbrother | January 30, 2016 at 9:18 am | Reply

      The progressive era was birthed at this time. The perfectionists movements and the Marxist movements began to gain following in the mid-late 1800’s. Nicolaitans all of them. There were a few bright periods where things slowed down….Coolidge/Truman/Reagan. Most all of the other presidents of the 20th century were progressives are had progressive tendencies. Bush, Obama and now Trump (I hope not) are all progressives with no principles just hoax and chains.

  7. Prosecutors routinely over-charge defendants. It gives them extraordinarily unfair power to extort a guilty plea. It is as corrupt as so many others institutions of government. It feeds the machine. Doesn’t matter if DA is a republican or democrat, elected or appointed.

  8. The prison system is a Corporation now! “Money talks! Nobody walks”!

  9. The injustice starts by not being informed of the cause of the charges. This is due to the cause being the false application of codes over the top of constitutional protections (rights–not privileges). Go sit in court for a day. You will hear the nature of the charges all day long but never the cause. Those of us who have taken a stand and insisted on being informed of the cause have been jailed for contempt of court. This tells you how they are committing the fraud. Now it is up to you to spread the word and help people find their courage to insist that the courts follow the Supreme Law of the land. By charging you under a secret cause you are agreeing to defend it when you enter your not guilty plea–you just agreed that you intended to break the law because that is what cause really comes down to–intent.

  10. Clearly the process of plea bargaining has placed our Republic on the precipice!

  11. Gregory Alan of Johnson | January 26, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Reply

    Learn how NOT to contract with the system under Satan.

  12. Bill Clearlake | January 27, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Reply

    How about actually reading the 13th Amendment? That should put all this and many other current issues in perspective.

  13. The
    Holes in the Legal System

    very many people realize just how full of holes the legal system
    actually is. It’s the opinion of this Author that it is due to the
    heavy level of indoctrination that goes on in the public fool system.
    Virtually NO ONE is taught what critical thinking is, let alone how
    to apply any of it. We’ve been reduced to a nation of people who are
    cowed into toeing the political party line, regardless of expense,
    which is nothing but political correctness gone wild. And so with
    all of this indoctrination rather than education going on, is it
    really any wonder now as to why we are virtually in a state of
    free-fall in so many areas of our life? No church, no police force,
    no government nor its agents, no banking system, no political
    affiliation, no school, not ANYTHING can claim to have fully clean
    hands. All of the above have been caught with the net of the Three
    Magic Questions. None of them can escape that net no matter how much
    wriggling or squirming they may do. And they do wriggle and squirm
    when caught. What is the EXACT AMOUNT of fraud that ANYBODY has the
    right to commit? What is the EXACT AMOUNT of fraud that ANYBODY has
    an actual obligation to endure? What is the BASIC PREMISE that is
    being operated off of in the instant case? Those three simple little
    questions totally destroy the pretenses of the legal system. They
    lay bare the fact that it is a criminal enterprise formed up by and
    run by criminals for their own profits and nothing more than that.

    if you will, that the legal system is like a large piece of Swiss
    cheese, laid out on the floor. Now we’ve all been totally convinced
    over the years that we all must step only on the solid parts of the
    cheese, and to never go near the holes. But what happens when we
    step into one of those holes? We drop right straight through them
    and escape from it! But most people think that it’s not fair to the
    rest of the suckers who do only what they are told to do and never
    step into a hole. But there’s an undercut in operation here. It is
    that since the entire legal system is a scam from the very beginning,
    we have no obligation at all to NOT step into a hole and disappear
    down it. Some may say something like “Well if everybody did
    that, well we’d have no courts anymore, we’d have anarchy in the
    streets, we’d have rioting and looting, etc, etc, etc”. Well
    don’t we already have those things in wholesale amounts now anyway?
    Just look around you now and see what you can see for a minute or

    will see that there’s no justice in the courts save what happens
    there purely by accident, no protection by the police except for them
    saving and protecting themselves from the wrath of the people that
    have been wronged by them, the schools are barely able to teach their
    charges how to read and write well enough to fill in a welfare
    program form, the churches abuse our children and assist the
    governmental and non-governmental agencies in stealing from their
    parishioners, the politicians do not listen to the people save for
    the ones who put them into office, need the list go on any longer
    now? So where is the “down side” to moving over a bit and
    stepping into a hole in the legal system? ONLY the ones who make a
    profit off of the legal system object to someone stepping into one of
    its holes.

    holes are all over the place, and some of them are quite large
    indeed. All it takes to find them is to open up your eyes and LOOK
    for them! Look with the knowledge that they are there and that you
    do not have any kind of an obligation to not use them. Those holes
    are made visible by reading The Maxims of Law, reading a law
    dictionary, THINKING for a moment about the TMQs. The Maxims of Law
    are the spirit of what the laws are supposed to be for and say. The
    law dictionaries show us where the holes are and how big they are.
    Thinking about the legal system will show us where the nearest hole
    is for us to step into and fall out of it. The TMQs give us the
    reasons as to WHY we should be stepping into those holes and doing so
    without the slightest amount of regret, except for the regret that we
    didn’t do it sooner!

    short, just how much worse off will we really be by stepping into
    some of those holes? The ones who own and operate the legal system
    scam for profit will suffer for sure, but no one else!! Everyone
    else will profit from stepping into those holes. It won’t be the
    case that there will be more lawlessness, as we already have more
    than we can stand anyway. So what’s the harm??

    ever humble logician servant,


  14. I know this to be true because I worked the last 15 years of my career in the county and district legal justice system. The system is horrendously broken.

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