Addressing criminal justice in Vermont
To the Editor:
The issue of the criminal justice industry is always ignored by candidates running for office. I want to talk about it. The State's Attorney wants a high conviction rate. They count plea deals as convictions. Who would know or prevent a State's Attorney from stacking charges to intimidate individuals in weak positions to accept (as a safer bet) that deal? The legislators will not touch the matter, no matter what the current transgression, citing separation of powers. As legislators criminalize, tax and regulate smaller and smaller increments of behavior, and townships rely on "revenue" from traffic violations, a problem is growing way out of hand. Justice for profit.
The public regards a criminal charge as evidence of guilt and the media slanders by publicizing charges but not exoneration. There appears an assumption that everyone charged with a crime must be guilty of something, and everyone accepts a plea out of guilt. This is simply not so. As a result behaviors of the criminal justice industry are in ways more harmful than the "crime" targeted by their attention. Spending more to criminalize than to educate in Vermont is both stupid and pathetic. I want it stopped.
I propose a separation is needed, for the State's Attorneys clearly have too much of a conflict of interest to assess charges on members of our community. I want to see a Responsible Citizen policy developed for Vermont. The role of assessing criminal charges (when a member of the community stands accused) needs to be placed where a no personal financial stake in the outcome is present. The community itself vetting the accusations, in the form of a jury, to list for the prosecutor what charges to prosecute, will do much to alleviate current malpractice.