Episode

8/11 Plea Bargains Creating A Criminal Underclass w/ Dan Canon

August 11, 2022

Emma hosts Dan Canon, civil rights lawyer and professor at the University of Louisville, to discuss his recent book Pleading Out: How Plea Bargaining Creates a Permanent Criminal Class. Emma begins by running through the arrest of an Iranian citizen for planning an extrajudicial assassination attempt against John Bolton, extrajudicial assassination expert, and Rudy Giuliani assures the public that Donald Trump is actually happier and more secure than ever. Then she’s joined by Professor Dan Canon as he walks Emma through the history of the plea bargain – today the most common conclusion to a criminal case (97% end in guilty pleas) – and how we came to put so much discretion in the hands of judicial cops (prosecutors) to center our judicial system around efficiency. First, Professor Canon brings us back to the inception of the plea bargain in 1830s Massachusetts, with the industrial revolution seeing a massive influx of white male suffrage in the working class, resulting in the political elite immediately launching a concerted attack on the labor movement via massive and incredibly vague criminal statutes like vagrancy and drunk and disorderly, thus needing to prosecute these individuals with efficiency the Massachusetts legislature legitimized the plea bargain. This saw a rapid shift in the US judicial system, with plea bargains going from illegal and frowned upon, to making up well over 80% of cases in Massachusetts by 1880, and continuing to effectively null the concept of a “jury of one’s peers” well before those “peers” could include women or people of color. Next, Dan and Emma walk through how the US criminal system developed around the plea bargain over the next century, with federal involvement in criminal justice expanding massively during the prohibition era, and continuing in the wake of the 21st Amendment as the US government turned to the beginnings of the war on drugs, only for Nixon and Reagan to massively accelerate it a half-century later, all requiring US prosecutors to charge such mass numbers of people at an incredibly rapid speed, regardless of the context and content of their arrests. Wrapping up, they reflect on the role of union busting in creating the plea bargain, looking at how the US’ carceral state works to create this permanent criminal underclass, separated from society and isolated as individuals, before concluding with a discussion on the necessity of rebuilding our system as a whole, rather than reforming it bit by bit.

And in the Fun Half: Emma is joined by Brandon Sutton as they take a tour of Mar-a-Lago’s lovely facilities, Crowder asks Kari Lake whether she, as governor of Arizona, would disband the FBI and IRS, and the crew debates DeSantis’ role in the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago. Matt from CT talks jury processes, and Brandon and Emma reflect on Howard Schulz, once Hillary’s potential NLRB nom, and his violent union busting coming back to bite him. Kilmeade calls out Biden for lowering inflation and also trying to continue to lower inflation, Matthais from New Jersey explores the privatization of public space in the wake of integration, plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Dan’s book here: https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/dan-canon/pleading-out/9781541674684/

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