It’s impossible to look at the US justice system and not think “something is seriously wrong, here.”
As usual, the government makes a set of noble-sounding mouth noises, while it’s actually doing something fairly nasty.
The whole system is set up as an elaborate game of “heads I win, tails you lose” with plenty of loopholes for the wealthy and powerful to generally work the system – if you’ve got the money to lawyer up and start demanding better treatment, you can. But if you’re poor, you’re basically stuck, because you’re on the inside and you can’t lawyer up effectively while you’re in confinement awaiting your trial. It’s a catch-22 situation and the government’s prosecutors know it: they can torture you into a plea-bargain, whether you’re guilty or not. Another of the system’s tricks is that they imprison you for failure to pay fines and fees incurred during the course of your encounter with the justice system – in other words, it’s a self-licking ice cream cone.
According to its stated ideals, the US justice system wants to presume innocence until guilt is determined at a jury trial. But that’s not how things are generally done: you’re locked up awaiting trial and it becomes easy for the government to extort a confession (plea bargain) in order to just get it over with. [wik] reports:
Six out of 10 people in U.S. jails – nearly a half million individuals on any given day – are awaiting trial. People who have not been found guilty of the charges against them account for 95% of all jail population growth between 2000–2014.
I find that a staggering level of … injustice. Basically, the government is able to treat you as though you were a convicted prisoner for years, whether they actually take the case to a jury, or not. Somehow, the American people find this situation acceptable – and, I think I know why: it doesn’t affect white people as much, and it affects poor people more. (being poor and black is, of course, the intersection of nastiness in this scenario) Also, around 48% of the prison population is incarcerated for drug charges. Add in the fact that, in many states, convicts lose their right to vote (and people in custody don’t exactly have an easy time voting, whether they have been convicted, or not) it’s pretty clearly part of a great, big, vote suppression operation. Richard Nixon’s bag-man, John Erlichman, admitted this eventually: [cnn]
You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
People who have not been found guilty of a crime, but are awaiting trial on drug charges, have been taken out of the voter pool fairly effectively. Again, this is not justice – it’s obvious what is going on, and it’s obviously wrong. Nowadays they’re trying to charge anyone who’s even been near a protest, of crimes that are serious enough that the protester gets disenfranchised. When the Trump administration started making additionally severe federal crimes for rioting (not expecting that they’d have their own riot to contend with) it was a convenient way of disenfranchising those who seem inclined to disagree with the government. If you step back and look at the situation with that perspective, you can understand why the proud boys were getting very different treatment at the hands of the department of justice than ANTIFA. The proud boys are the guys who vote the right way, and ANTIFA are probably leftists, let’s charge them with stuff and grind them down emotionally and financially. And, of course, if the cops accidentally sweep up some journalists, they’ll be able to clear themselves eventually though the wheels of justice do turn slowly, nyuk, nyuk.
What amazes me about the whole situation is that the “right wing” has been bamboozled into thinking that the situation is acceptable because – so far – the “right people” are getting cracked down on. You can observe their horrified reaction to the charges and arrests regarding the January 6 electoral insurrection – they didn’t expect their people to wind up detained; that’s for the other guys. But, in spite of the fact that they’re reprehensible idiots, I’m still really uncomfortable with the fact that a lot of them are cooling their heels in jail, waiting for the wheels of justice to turn. For all intents and purposes, they may as well have been declared “guilty” and sentenced to serve time, because they’re already serving time.
That brings me to what I’m uncomfortable about: Ghislaine Maxwell. [vice] Granted that she sounds like a really shitty person, right now, she hasn’t been found guilty of anything. She made some (I think pretty sensible, given her situation) attempts to not be grabbed the law enforcement, which was then used as a pretext for locking her up and treating her as if she were a convicted criminal, already. It’s a real problem – rich people have the resources to run and live comfortably in France, like Roman Polanski, and they have the resources to erect a smoke-screen of legal motions and whatnot, so they can run the clock down like Donald Trump has always done. The justice system has to expect that a wealthy douchebag is going to use their wealth to try to protect themselves (that’s what it’s for, after all!) but, doesn’t that amount to treating them as guilty before they’ve had a trial?
It’s particularly problematic when you’ve got a justice system with prisons that are straight out of a bad movie about “3rd world” dictatorships:
Maxwell’s lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, has particularly objected to the jail guards’ nightly practice of shining a light into Maxwell’s cell every 15 minutes.
What, wait, huh? Did some judge decide that was appropriate? No, it appears that it is just something that the jail operators have decided is something they’re going to do to her, because they’re sadists. In the US, prison guards can get away with a whole lot of things, by claiming it’s to keep the prisoner from harming themself – Chelsea Manning was forced to sleep on a stainless steel platform with no blanket or covers, because – supposedly – she had said she wanted to die. In other words, the prison system’s way of dealing with a potentially suicidal prisoner is to try to drive them to suicide.
Maxwell is accused of some pretty janky stuff, but she is still “innocent until proven guilty” and is being abused by the prison system in lieu of her boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein, who escaped his comeuppance by killing himself.
Federal prosecutors have argued that checks are a regular part of guards’ routine, and done to ensure that people are still breathing. Prosecutors have also repeatedly maintained that, despite claims of Maxwell’s physical deterioration, the onetime socialite is still healthy and is treated the same as other people held at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
What the fuck is wrong with these people? They need to ensure that people are still breathing? That’s complete bullshit. People don’t generally just stop breathing in prison, do they? Is that an epidemic? Of course what they are really saying is that they don’t want her to commit suicide like Jeffrey. And, boy, it’s fun for sadists to have a ci-devant prisoner that they can torment for a change. Why are these people allowed to treat a suspect so badly? Her trial is tentatively scheduled for this summer, and she has been consistently denied bail. That gives them a few more months to drive her over the edge.
I don’t think I’d give Ghislaine Maxwell the time of day, but basically the same shit was pulled on Chelsea Manning. In Manning’s case, liberals were suitably aghast, while nationalists/right-wingers were smug about her treatment. Now, with Maxwell we have the same thing playing itself along class lines. That’s really what’s going on, isn’t it? I’m a huge non-fan of how Americans deal with class (too much millionaire-worship) – man, when they turn on one of their own it’s like a pack of crazy wolves. Actually, wolves aren’t that mean.