Tuesday, November 20, 2012


She went to court today, shackled at her ankles and wrists.  2 ½ years she sat, waiting for justice, refusing to plead out -- 30 months, 913 days, 2 birthdays, sleeping on bunks in a dorm with 29 other women, lights on day and night, toilets and showers in view of the deputies, no ac in the summer, one fan, and little heat in the winter, unable to hug her kids. Yes, it's jail, but where is the speedy trial guaranteed by the constitution?

Mug shots flash across the television. The D.A's charges announced, no sensation in the rebuttal--found guilty by a jury of local news.

Bail is revoked. Family can't afford a lawyer? No problem, by law everyone must be provided legal counsel. Assigned to one of twelve public defenders, who handles 500 other clients, "a deal" is worked out with the prosecution. "Plead guilty to a lesser charge, and get out sooner." Keep it out of court -- less work, less money spent, looks good on paper, move on to another case. But WAIT, what if she's innocent? "Plead out. It's in your best interest," repeated over and over for years, as she sits, her life on hold.

What's the cure for a broken system not accountable to taxpayers? Certainly not a society driven by fear. "Mercy, Lord," it yells. "They're in jail. They must be guilty," It chants over and over before plunging headlong into a rerun of Law and Order.

She shuffles from the van with 4 others dressed in orange, INMATE stamped across their backs.  Chains clank with each step, as they drag on the ground between the ankle bracelets. Back from court, she is one of the fortunate. Time, patience, and a frustrated judge has garnered a temporary release to her ailing mother's supervision.

A court date is set in 4 months, but this is subject to change. Unprepared because of time restraints or budget cuts, counsel on either side can beg the courts forgiveness and postpone the hearing again and again. Ironically, a simple clerical error, a stroke of the computer key, has been known to send a person back to jail on a technicality. Due process?

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