How is plea bargaining implicated in the "McDonaldization" of justice?
Uncertainty is a characteristic of all criminal trials because neither the duration of the trial, which may be a matter of minutes or of months, nor the outcome of the trial can ever be predicted with any degree of accuracy. Plea bargaining eliminates those two areas of uncertainty by eliminating the need for a trial. Plea bargaining serves the interests of prosecutors by guaranteeing them high conviction rates, which is an indicator of job performance and a useful tool in the quest for higher political office. It serves the interests of judges by reducing their court caseloads, allowing more time to be spent on more difficult cases....In general, then, process and product override principle. Smart affirmatives will look for ways in which the reasons for bargaining given above conflict with principles of justice.
Plea bargaining serves the interests of criminal defense attorneys by allowing them to spend less time on each case. It also allows them to avoid trials. Trials are relatively expensive events. Because most criminal defendants are poor, they are usually unable to pay a large legal fee. Thus, when criminal defense attorneys go to trial, they are frequently unable to recoup all of their expenses. Plea bargaining provides many criminal defense attorneys with the more profitable option of charging smaller fees for lesser services and handling a larger volume of cases. Even most criminal defendants are served by plea bargaining. A guilty plea generally results in either no prison sentence or a lesser prison sentence than the defendant might receive if found guilty at trial. Plea bargaining also often allows defendants to escape conviction of socially stigmatizing crimes, such as child abuse. By "copping" a plea to assault rather than to statutory rape, for example, a defendant can avoid the embarrassing publicity of a trial and the wrath of fellow inmates or of society in general. In sum, there is no question that plea bargaining has many advantages, including making the administration of justice more efficient....
The purported benefits aren't cost-free, either. Indigent defendants are pressured into decisions they mightnot have made, had better counsel been available, and habitual offenders, faced with teh threat of "three strikes" laws, have to plead to avoid mandatory life sentences, even for minor crimes. Most salient to the current resolution, though, are the other ill effects of plea bargaining:
Crime victims are another group whose interests are not always served by plea bargaining, and their plight illustrates further the process's irrationality. Long ignored in the adjudication of crimes committed against them, victims often feel "revictimized" by the deals that prosecutors offer offenders and believe they have been denied the full measure of justice they seek and deserve.That's a possibility I hadn't yet considered, and one the Neg should be forced to address.
Another problem with plea bargaining is that it precludes the possibility of any further judicial examination of earlier stages of the process. In other words, with the acceptance of a guilty plea, there is no longer any chance that police or prosecutorial errors before trial will be detected.