Bail status not only determines whether the defendant is to be incarcerated before trial, it also bears on the likelihood of conviction. Although jurors are not supposed to know whether the defendant has been jailed before trial, they can often discern the defendant's bail status and are more likely to convict a defendant who has already been incarcerated. Here again, one racial disparity begets disparity further along in the justice system. Sentencing is arguably the most important stage of the criminal justice system.
While policing strategies help determine who will be subjected to the criminal process in the first place, and prosecutorial choices help determine who will be granted leniency from the full force of the law, sentencing is where those earlier decisions really matter. Sentencing is now generally mandatory, determinate, and harsh, a volatile mix that has led to dramatically increased prison populations. The reality is people of color are vastly over-represented in the criminal justice system, especially young African American and Hispanic men.
The reasons for this are disputed. Some say that these groups commit more crimes and end up being punished more as a result. Others say that the criminal justice system and the larger society are racist and that this bias results in greater punishment for those groups. Whatever the explanation, the greater involvement of minorities in the corrections system gives at least the appearance of unfairness and leaves many of these groups believing that the system is biased against them because of their ethnicity or race.
The result is a decline in the overall credibility of the criminal justice system. In looking at the "Incident at Oglala," there are clear examples of inequality amongst minorities at each step of the "process. " In the investigative step or detection process of the criminal justice system, the clear injustice lies in the FBI agents' approach. The FBI agents came speeding up to the Indian camp in an unmarked vehicle and in civilian clothes. Upon contact with members of the tribe, the agents did not present any form of identification.
It is also important to realize the environment at this time in 1975 was filled with a lot of tension and violence between the government and AIM (American Indian Movement). Peltier was a key leader in AIM. This tension was fueled by many incidents, including the occupancy of Wounded Knee which involved the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) in 1972 over land in Fort Lawton, Oregon. This event brought in FBI interest because AIM won rights to the land and established an Indian cultural center.
This continual tension caused violence and mistrust among the groups and all involved began to have the "us against them" mentality. This time was like a war zone. In the arrest process, it is obvious the FBI set up Peltier. Although no determination has ever been made as to who really shot the two FBI agents, the Bureau quickly decided that the killers were likely four Indian men: Jimmy Eagle (the individual the FBI agents were originally on the reservation to find and arrest for stealing cowboy boots), Bob Robideau, Dino Butler and Leonard Peltier.
Eagle was apprehended but never brought to trial due to "lack of evidence," Robideau and Butler, who were captured in the wake of the explosion of their car near Kansas city, were brought to trial in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the bail process, Peltier spent five months in jail at high bail, arrested for attempted murder, and eventually went underground before his pre-trial hearing. Peltier fled to Canada to seek refuge, contending that he could not be given a fair hearing in the U. S. because of his position as an AIM activist.
However, Peltier was extradited back to the U. S. Also, the original judge excused himself without explanation and the court location was moved to a town with strong anti-Indian sentiment. In addition, Peltier's defense team was denied critical cross-examinations in its efforts to prove FBI misconduct and was prevented from presenting key defense witnesses. Peltier's attorney also presented evidence showing that the prosecution produced false testimonies obtained under FBI coercion, perjured testimonies by FBI agents, and withheld a crucial ballistic test document.
The prosecution on the other hand, had free reign over what they presented as evidence against Peltier. Inequality peaked when the U. S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The greatest bias was presented against Peltier in the sentencing process. While it was determined that Peltier did not fire the lethal shots, and proven that misconduct within the FBI's prosecution "techniques" had occurred, and the court location changed to Fargo, North Dakota, where strong anti-Indian beliefs were held by all.
This trial resulted in Peltier being sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, while Robideau and Butler were acquitted of all charges, and Eagle was never even brought to trial. Also, there was nobody charged in the death of Joe Stuntz Killright, an AIM member. The FBI was never held accountable. I think the outcome in the second trial was different than the outcome in the first trial for several reasons: First, in Robideau and Butler's trial, the FBI's conduct was questioned and some of their unethical prosecution techniques were exposed.
This made the FBI desperate for a conviction. By seeking a change in venue to Fargo, North Dakota, they knew that the racial views of the community would produce a different outcome. There are many other factors that I believe influenced the outcome differences in the two trials, too many factors to mention. The U. S. government has made Peltier into a symbol of the futility of resistance and the repression of his movement. Achieving his freedom – which, by any standards, is well deserved – could be construed by all only as a solid symbol of liberation.
This incident has left no question as to Peltier's status as a political prisoner, a prisoner of war targeted on the basis of his beliefs and activism rather than for any "crime. " Because of Peltier's continued refusal to name names, even when it might have lessened his own prosecution over the years, he has become a symbol of movement struggle, and a director of international AIM, even if it is from his prison cell. We are ultimately presented here not with true considerations of justice and injustice, questions of whether "the process works" or doesn't work, or can even be made to work.
Reality has long since transcended such notions, the concept of "the process" doesn't even begin to address the reality of what is happening in Indian country. There is more than a little which is horribly wrong in the overall pattern of federal/judicial conduct relative to AIM. Peltier is symbolic of the whole. 2. Using films, lecture, book, and class exercises discuss how various criminal justice policies impact overcrowding, human rights issues, and prepare inmate to re-enter society. Include through discussion of each.
The skyrocketing prison population has created a correctional crisis of overcrowding. At the end of the year 2000, twenty-one states and the federal prison system operated at 100 percent or more of their highest capacity. There are several factors that explain this growth. As noted in class, there seems to be little relationship between the crime rate and the incarceration rate. However, here are five reasons mentioned in Clear and Cole, 2003: 1) improved law enforcement and prosecution, 2) tougher sentencing, 3) prison construction, 4) the war on drugs, and 5) state politics.
Minorities in the American Legal System do not receive equal treatment. Some areas of concern include police brutality, notably against minority groups and foreigners, racial disparities in the application in the death penalty; felony disenfranchisement, particularly affecting minorities after they have served criminal sentences; treatment of indigenous peoples, and racial discrimination and disparities in housing, employment, education, and health care. These are all areas where serious human rights violations continue to occur, this includes the federal, state, and local levels.
The courts, administrative agencies, and legislatures have been often unable or maybe unwilling to hold abusers accountable, to provide protection to victims, or to secure the changes needed and bring equality into our criminal justice system. Not only has the number of arrests increased, the likelihood of going to prison upon conviction has also increased. In the past three decades the states and the federal government have passed laws that increase sentences for most crimes.
In addition, new mandatory sentencing laws greatly limit the discretion of judges with regard to the length of sentences for certain offenders. The "War on Drugs," started in 1982 by President Reagan, along with the shift to determinate sentences, the new truth-in-sentencing laws, and a drop in release rates have packed the nation's prisons with drug law offenders. Crowded prisons violate constitutional standards, increase violence, decrease access to programs and services, and create major administrative problems.
Public attitudes in favor of harsher sentencing policies influence legislators to approve building more prisons. Prison construction during the 1990's was a growth industry, which increased the capacity of state prisons by 81 percent. Today, over 22 states are under court order to reduce overcrowding in correctional facilities, due to the fact that it violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Also, for health and safety reasons, crowded conditions in existing facilities cannot be tolerated.