One legal activist is considering the possibility of an action that might “bring the whole [justice] system to a halt” in America.
That action? Organising people to claim their constitutional rights.
At the moment, most people who are charged with a crime will waive their right to a trial. They’re commonly advised that a full trial could lead them to face serious penalties, whereas agreeing a guilty plea beforehand and getting it all sorted out quickly and efficiently would be better for everyone.
If they took the rights they were entitled to, there’s no way the system could cope. But they’re pressured to plea out, and sometimes they have little choice.
Erma Faye Stewart pleaded guilty, having been told that it was the only way she’d be able to look after her children. As it turns out, if she’d gone to court, the case against her would have been dismissed. But that’s no comfort now that she’s been evicted from her home, made ineligible for food stamps, lumped with court costs and probation fees, and given a permanent criminal record.
I already told them, I’m having a hard time, buying my son medicine. I have to have his medicine for his asthma.
Her son needs medicine for his asthma. Goddammit, if you wrote a character in a movie as heart-wrenching as this woman, people would be vomiting into their popcorn at how schmaltzy and contrived it was. Why the fuck are we not better at helping people?
The fact that the US has a serious incarceration problem is no secret. The idea that the system could be so easily crashed just highlights how broken it already is.