George Soros has embarked on a new adventure in criminal justice reform. The storied trader is attacking the issues that have plagued the U.S. justice system since the end of Jim Crow with the same fervor with which he has made trades in the markets. This new strategy represents a radically new direction in criminal justice activism. George Soros’ opponents would be wise to take note.
Replacing the criminal justice system’s engine
George Soros has retooled his domestic activism strategies. George Soros now seems to be focusing less on the big-prize races like those of the presidency, where there is so much attention that even massive donations can prove ineffective, and focusing more on smaller races, where even smaller amounts can have decisive impacts.
The one area of the criminal justice system where Soros has judiciously decided to concentrate his efforts is on local prosecutorial races. He has very good reasons for this.
That’s because they literally decide who will go to jail and who will go free. In theory, no single person is supposed to wield such immense power in a democratic republic on businessinsider.com. But, due to the exigencies of a rising crime rate and out-of-control urban violent crime, the system has become overburdened in the United States and has developed a number of relief valves to prevent the entire thing from imploding under an unmanageable case load.
The plea bargain, ripe for abuse
One idiosyncrasy of the U.S. justice system on Forbes is the plea bargain. People from Europe and other developed areas of the world often view the plea bargain with horror, as some form of atavistic barbarism that is little better than trial by fire. But the unavoidable fact is that without it, the entire U.S. justice system would very quickly stop functioning.
Over 95% of cases are dispensed with pleas, not trials. This gives prosecutors enormous power because they can decide to plea anyone down to any lesser crime at any moment. While a prosecutor is not likely to let an obviously guilty murderer plead down to a seat belt violation, this form of case dispensation does often lead to gigantic disparities between jurisdictions and between races of defendants on things like low-level drug crimes and non-violent misdemeanors.
Another reason that the prosecutor has such incredible power is that they get to decide exactly how much resources they will spend on any trial. The horrifying reality is that in the United States, if a reputable prosecutor really doesn’t like you, they can probably send you to prison. Terrifying as it is, this is a tool which is often used to send criminals to prison where the police know they don’t have a case on the main crime. This is effective in inducing plea bargains to lesser crimes. Everyone wins, the defendant does a minimal jail or prison sentence but isn’t convicted on the big crimes, the police solve the case, and the prosecutor racks up another successful plea deal.