The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers recently released a report that highlights some disturbing trends concerning the manner in which individuals are criminally prosecuted in the United States. It appears that more than a quarter of adults in our country have a criminal record, and 2.2 million individuals are currently in jail or prison. This means we have more people incarcerated than does any other nation.
There are more than 19 million Americans with a felony conviction on their record. Anyone arrested for an offense is likely to have their reputation tarnished. Yet with the 14 million new arrests that occur every year, blacks are often hit hardest when it comes to then trying to find a job after being arrested. A conviction can even punish families that may be excluded from receiving public housing.
One governor suggested “public safety and strong communities” are enhanced when better reintegration strategies are implemented. The president of the NACDL stated: “People simply should not have to carry the burden of their past mistakes for the rest of their lives.”
It’s because the consequences of a conviction or even arrest can be so severe that criminal defense attorneys are needed to fight the charges against their clients. If an inappropriate arrest takes place, someone needs to bring this to the attention of a judge. Evidence or testimony that is unreliable should be prevented from being heard in court.
Even if a conviction does occur, any sentence handed down must be appropriate and not be disproportionate to the crime charged. The opportunity to negotiate for a better sentence must be made available.