Justice for the Indigent (Po’ Folk) By Cristina Arra Hamilton

The Professor in my criminal justice class brought up something  interesting  in one of our discussions that I’d like to share with you. I will share his question and then I will share several responses including mine. This topic discusses Attorney Representation for the poor. Again the responses are from women that share an online class together. Compare and contrast their responses and think about it. Here goes!

My Professor wrote:

The problem of discrimination and disparity within the criminal justice system cannot be linked to any one area of the criminal justice process. The problem exists at every level of the justice system. In order to effectively combat these disparities, we must use a systematic approach to tackle the problem. We need to address the “assembly-line” justice that our poor are receiving. The financial status of an individual should have no bearing on the type of legal representation the person receives. Protections under the Constitution, as well as federal and criminal statutes prohibit racial discrimination in the judicial process. The criminal justice system needs to be just as diligent about providing equal legal representation for accused that are indigent.

Class, what are your feelings on this subject?(Crumpler, 2010)

Response 1. Excellent point, equality in legal representation is one of the areas needing the most attention. For example, the pay scale difference between a public defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney. I work with both on a daily basis, not only is the pay scale different, but so is the work load. Public defenders are sometimes unable to provide adequate counsel because of the disparity in workloads. To even begin to correct this and other problems, we must start at the top and work our way down.

Response 2. In all honesty, I think it will always be a problem. It is human nature to see the class half empty, so to speak. If someone does not have representation and cannot afford it, they are given representation. Part of the problem is when you receive that representation and they believe that you are guilty. You are not going to be able to get adequate representation, whether you did it or not. It is not that we do it on purpose, it is how the brain reacts to the knowledge. Does that make sense?

Arra’s Response 3. My feelings on this subject is this if a person decides to become a Public Defender and believes that certain people shouldn’t be treated fairly then is law really their passion? Or did they take a test in High School and based on those results decided or was told by the “Guidance” Counselor the best thing for them to study is law when their true desire is to be a dancer or an artist etc. Or is it because Dad or Mom studied Law and this person was programmed from birth to follow in one of the parents footsteps? Or did this person become a Public Defender to help ensure that these indigent people are placed behind bars because this is the way it has been for so long and they’re not going to make a change? How many people are in these positions because they believe in what’s right? Judging by the (majority) in the prison population, my guess would be not too many. I can only speak as a minority single mother with a male child, because I am intelligent and because I am confident and not afraid to take risks, the college town I lived in Florida, which is controlled by majority white men, who felt because of my talents, I needed to be hidden from society because I could be taken up the space or career that one of their own should have. So basically they felt I didn’t deserve to be anything but poor unless I submitted to their will and again by analyzing the prison population and my personal experiences as a minority woman with law enforcement, this is how the entire system thinks in regards to the “indigent”.

What? I was given this world I didn't make it. So what's up? What yall wanna do?


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