Rich Vs. Poor: The American Judicial System

Rich v. s Poor “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe”(Douglas). The American judicial system which has undergone many changes since its colonial times has evolved with the changing times to reflect a modern society, however even with the changes that the judicial system has undergone it still faces a key critical point that continues to undermine the laws and justices from which our society is based.

The glaring point is the differentiating treatment between the rich and the poor. In the judicial system the rich are given substantial leniency with corresponding cases while the poor and minorities are stuck dealing with the judicial system and its many roadblocks. Many of the roadblocks that those less fortunate face within the judicial system all lead back to the current bail system and its structure. Another point to add would be how the sentencing amongst the rich and the poor differ as well as the overall outcome of the cases.

It is these key points that keep many of those with money never having to set foot in jail and receiving ridiculous sentences in the end while the poor receive unjust outcomes. The United States bail system which dates back to pre-independance America was originally based on english law has gone through many changes which were meant to be fair and equal to all, however many times it fails. An article published by NPR shows how many prison systems are overcrowded with prisoners who have yet to face trial and merely face pre-trial detention, because they are unable to make bail.

One such individual is Leslie Chew, who was arrested for stealing three thirty dollar blankets in december 2008, he had been in Lubbock county jail for a little over 185 days in jail six months. This only due to the fact that he was unable to pay bail, which was $3,500 dollars. Many would argue that America is one of few countries that allow bondsmen to pay bail for a small non-refundable fee. This however also proves to be way past the means of those such as Leslie Chew who by trade is a handyman who lives in his car.

The bondsman would have paid for Mr. Chews bail for the fee of $350 dollars this however is well above the means of Mr. Chew. This is similar to many who face pre-trial detention while they await trial. On the reverse side many of those who are able to make bail are able to continue their daily routine while awaiting trial, while many of those who don’t make bail face the consequence of losing jobs and everything they own. Another point to add would be the overall cost of housing those in pretrial detention centers, the cost of housing Mr. Chew in jail for six months was about $7,068, this taken into account as well as the fact the Mr. Chew is just one of many similar cases reveal how and why many prisons face overcrowding.

Many of those who face pretrial detention are their from non-violent non-felony to felony crimes. This in turn also shows how those who are finally able to have a trial within the court receive sentences that will usually reflect the crime, that also includes no prison sentences for misdemeanors and non-felony crimes. Then there are the trials of those who have money, they receive lenient sentencing which most of the time does not include prison sentences.

Robert H. Richards the fourth is the great grandson of Irenee du Pont a chemical magnate, as well as one of his heirs. In Delaware 2009 Mr. Richards was convicted of rapimg his three year old daughter, he was given a sentence of 8 years in prison, however he was spared from prison, because a judge decided that Mr. Richards would ‘Not dare well behind bars”. Instead the judge gave Richards a sentence of 8 years of probation, was ordered to seek treatment as well as register as a sex offender. To also add he is prohibited from having contact with children under the age of 16 that also included his own children.

This decision by the Delaware Judge Jurden, the case however went widely unnoticed. It was not until Richard’s ex-wife refiled a case against Richards stating substantial evidence of inappropriate behavior with their son. When this came to light many argued over the blatant disregard for the law and echoed the similarities between this case and that of Ethan Couch, an american who had killed four people while drinking and driving, for his defense he claimed affluenza. For this lackluster defense he only received 10 years probation as well as therapy at an in-patient long term facility.

Couch’s case however may not be over, he has broken his probation as well as fled the country these two events may lead to Couch receiving a true sentence that he deserves. While one sees cases like these, in which individuals who act purely for their own selfish desires, there are cases such as that of Shanesha Taylor, from Scottsdale, Arizona, who was charged with felony child abuse. Ms. Taylor was charged with this crime when she left her two small children in a car for a little over an hour. She did this so she could go to a job interview.

Ms. Taylor was taken straight to jail for a week, while her children were taken to child protective services where they remain. One could argue that the differentiating circumstances in all three cases allowed for the cases to be properly prosecuted with just sentences followed to the word of the law, but I digress it is not so. Two of the four cases which have been mentioned come from caucasian or affluent background, who in a sense were able to buy their freedom even for a small amount of time.

While cases like Mr. Chew’s, a poor uneducated white man still awaits trial, and Ms. Taylor, an African-American mother had her children taken away and was charged with child abuse, receive the short end of the stick. The ones with money will always have an advantage against those who don’t. However, instead of talking about the outrage over unjust cases of rich vs. poor, against different platforms such as social media, one should take action. People should instead work together to make changes happen and ensure just sentencing for all.