One of the many flaws with the U.S. court system is overcrowding for no other reasons than people can’t afford to leave jail. Mississippi is one of the primary culprits with this tactic that disproportionately affects the poor.
To prevent this, the American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement in the case of Burks v. Scott County, Mississippi that will make sure anyone arrested is immediately given a public defender, according to Ebony.
“Mississippi has been locking up poor folks without a lawyer and without the ability to make bail for as long as anyone can remember. Desperate and hopeless, many people plead guilty to offenses they didn’t commit just to get back to their families,” said Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Josh Bassett and Octavious Burks, who were detained in a Mississippi jail for 8 and 10 months, respectively, without being charged with a crime or given a lawyer.
Most states, including Mississippi, don’t place limits on how long someone can be detained without charges. Now, Scott, Neshoba, Newton, and Leake counties will hire a chief public defender to supervise all public defenders.
Hopefully, other states will follow suit and help decrease the prison population by an exponential amount.