THAT'S NOT THE WAY IT'S S'POSED TO BE!
by Hardy Parkerson, B.A., J.D.; former Asst. Prof. Criminal Justice, L.S.U., Baton Rouge
We need help badly down here in Louisiana.We need you to call upon the United States Department of Justice to come here and take over the Criminal "Justice" System. It has just become a big industry, designed to make money for those who run it; and there are literally thousands of them. There are upwards of one-thousand deputies sheriffs in Calcasieu Parish.There is the Sheriff's Department, the Lake Charles City Police, the Lake Charles City Marshal police force, the Sulphur City Police, the Vinton City Police, the Westlake City Police, theDeQuincy City Police, the F.B.I., the McNeese Police, the Port Police, even the Railroad Police…no joke!The citizens are apparently willing to pay any price to fight crime, so that now we have literally thousands of police.Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the Louisiana State Police, which has literally thousands of state trooper police officers.And all of these thousands of policemen, have to justify their paychecks, so they literally make thousands of arrests, arresting almost anybody for almost anything.There are so many policemen in Calcasieu Parish that law enforcement has become one of the top employers in the parish, even employing more men that any one of the local petro-chemical plants and rivaling even the Calcasieu Parish School System as the number-one employer in the parish.And it seems that the whole Criminal "Justice" System is based on money and calculated to generate money for those who run it.
For example, for one to even post a bail bond to get out of jail to await a trial which never seems to come, he has to pay the Sheriff Thirty Dollars ($30.00). That is illegal, as it is unconstitutional to make a defendant who has never been found guilty pay money.It is unconstitutional to make a defendant pay money to exercise a God-given Constitutional right, such as the right to bail pending trial.Since those accused and awaiting trial have to pay $30.00 per bailbond, there is a tendency of the arresting law-officers to book them with as many charges as they can dream up.These arresting officers have a tendency to literally throw the book at these accuseds, booking them for multiple charges,notwithstanding that once the accuseds' files are ultimately reviewed by the prosecutor, many of the charges for which these accused have been booked by the police will be "rejected", and the defendants will not be charged by the prosecutor with these "rejected" counts.Nevertheless, there is a breakdown and failure of communication between the prosecutors and the police, and defendants are still required to bond out on each charge for which a defendant is booked in by the police; and for an accused to bond out of jail pending trial on each such charge, he must pay the Sheriff a $30.00 fee for each such charge for which he has been booked by the arresting officer; plus he must pay a professional bailbondsman a fee of twelve percent (12%) of the amount of the bond originally set by the Judge on each such count for which he has been booked in. It is all about money, money, money, money, money!It's like I say in my poem THEIR CRIME: "I visit prisons all the time./They're filled with men/ Whose greatest crime/ Is that they haven't got a dime."
Secondly, and more startling, the Judges who set the amounts of bail bonds for accuseds who are awaiting trial, get a cut of the money paid to a professional bailbondsman by the accuseds who post the bonds. Therefore, the higher that the bonds are set, the more money the Judges get.The higher the Judges fix the bonds, the more money they get.The same applies to the D.A.s who recommend to the Judges the amounts of the bail bonds.They to get a cut of the money paid a professional bailbondsman for a bailbond.Therefore, D.A.s have a financial interest in seeing that bonds for those accused and awaiting trial are fixed as high as possible and that those bonds, once set, are not lowered.The higher the bonds are set, the more money the D.A.s get. The same thing applies to the so-called Public "Defenders."They get a cut of the money paid to a professional bailbondsman for a bailbond.They have a financial interest in seeing that bail bonds stay high; for the higher they are, the more money they get.For these public officials to have a financial interest in seeing that bailbonds are fixed high and remain high is a financial conflict-of-interest, and Judges, D.A.s and so-called Public Defenders should not have financial conflicts-of-interest.
Thirdly, instead of Calcasieu Parish's having only one parish prison, like most normal parishes, in Calcasieu Parish we have two: the Calcasieu Correctional Center and the Calcasieu Sheriff's Prison, both of which are filled to the brim with hundreds of men awaiting a trial which never seems to come.
And few men are ever placed on trial in Calcasieu Parish. It seems the courts are reluctant to spend the money necessary to grant them jury trials. Jury trials cost much money, and such money is paid out of the District Judges' Judicial Expense Fund; and the District Judges get their perquisites out of the Judicial Expense Fund.There is a reluctance to spend money out of the Judicial Expense Fund on juries.
In Civil Cases juries are paid by litigant advanced court fees, and Civil jury cases are tried often. However, in felony and capital criminal cases, few jury trials are ever held; especially in Calcasieu Parish, where the jails are bursting at the seams with men awaiting a trial which never seems to come.
The reluctance to try felony and capital criminal cases in Calcasieu Parish has gotten so bad that a new Criminal "Justice" practice has developed, and that is of defendants who plead guilty to get out of jail.One defendant who had been held in jail for several months on some worthless check charges complained to the Judge presiding at his arraignment that he had been held in jail so long unable to make bond and not even advised of the nature of the charges against him until that fateful day he was finally brought to court from the parish prison for his arraignment on the charges against him.The presiding Judge informed him from the Bench that all he had to do was to plead guilty and he would get out of jail that very day. The defendant, being nobody's fool, said, "What a minute!I thought that if you plead guilty, you went to jail, not the other way around!"
And that, my friends, is not the way it's s'posed to be!