Just Let Me Vent

You want to know my biggest pet peeve? D.A.s (and the general public, but mostly D.A.s) who think that my clients like jail or want to go to jail.

Yes, I know there's this urban legend about poor people committing crimes to get a roof over their head and a hot meal. I don't know if it happens in other places, but I don't believe that it happens here. I have never once met a client who said, "You can just leave me in here." Instead, they all say, "Get me out of here." Even the homeless, even the sick, even the poorest people I see. Perhaps that's because our city has a decent shelter and food-pantry system, and, quite frankly, a crappy jail system. Or, perhaps it's because all people (yes, even the poor) value their freedom.

But, ok, let's just say, for the sake of argument, that I can believe that there are some homeless people who would rather spend a night in jail than on the street. That does not mean that all poor people would rather spend time in jail than at home.

Take, for instance, a client I had last week. Older guy, lives with his wife and their grandchild, has an apartment and a full time job. He got arrested for a stupid petty offense. The DA pretty much admitted to me that he thought it was a stupid case, but then told me that he was going to ask for a lot of jail time.

I looked at the D.A. and said, incredulously, "Are you serious?" And he responded, "He probably likes it better in jail."

Ok, buddy, listen up. I know that his apartment probably isn't as big as yours. And his job isn't as comfy as yours. And his family isn't as white as yours. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't love his life and want to be able to go home at night. You are not the arbiter of the standard of living, and it is not for you to decide whether or not someone's life is better or worse than you imagine jail to be and then do them a "favor" by sending them to jail.

So, f- you now. You can take your jail recommendation and shove it. Because you, and your lame ass recommendations will not be seeing pleas from me or any of my clients. You want jail time? You're going to have to get off your lazy ass and beat me at trial.

Thank you, that is all.


  1. God, do i want to go back to that? It just sounds so. . .so. . .ugh. . .

  2. I have to agree for most part about the poor and underclass liking or wanting to go to jail. However here in Australia many of the aboriginal juvie offenders are reoffending to get back into juvenile fascilities. Many have parents who can't look after themselves so they have no hope of looking after 8 kids. Substance abuse is rife, domestic violence is just out of control. Many of these kids tell me that they get free education....food...a roof over their heads and someone who cares about them.

  3. I have to admit, I believed the urban legend. Great post.

  4. The urban legend, I think, arose from Clarence Darrow's speech to the Cook County jail in the early 20th century. He noticed that crime stats go up during the hottest and coldest times of the year. But, that DA still sounds like a tool.

  5. If the DA was being altruistic, couldn't he have just checked with you first to see if the client wanted to go to jail? Seems to me that would be the way to go about it - but then I'm not a DA.

  6. Some of my fellow ADA/APA, etc, sad to say, are affliced with rectal defilade disease. I agree with the poster that speculated that this urban myth originated in the Great Depression when it may have had some validity. In 17 years on the job I have come across two, maybe only one, defendant who might have re-offended to get back to prison.

    These two guys committed the stupidist B and E on record in my county. I did the probable cause hearing and I asked them (they refused appointed counsel) what the Hell they were thinking. One of them shrugged his shoulders, the other said, "I don't know. I guess I just wanted to go home." I looked at the rap sheet, thinking that maybe this was a guy who might be subject to extridition or something, but no. Local boy. More or less. Spent 20 of the last 25 years in and out of prison. Ten years on the most recent bit. So, I asked him, "You telling me you want to back to {name of prison}?" He looked at me and said, "I know it sound crazy, but I been thinking and that be the only reason I do something this dumb."

    That was the one and only time I ever ran across a defendant who may have done the crime to get back to prison. Note, prison, not jail. I don't think anyone wants to go to jail. And I'n not sure the other guy knew what he was getting into.

  7. This is going to sound very naive but... what's the difference between prison and jail?

  8. To answer ChickenMagazine:
    Jails are generally locally-run and are where defendants are held waiting for trial or for short sentences after trial.

    Prisons are state or federal run, prisoners are usually serving a sentence of one year or more (and, thus, have been convicted of a felony offense).

    The 2 have different "personalities." Many people find it difficult to spend a lot of time in jail - everyone is counting their days until their next court date and coming or going. In prison, everyone knows they're there for a while.

    To Fitz-Hume: The DA wasn't being altruistic. He was being a racist, classist bigot.

  9. I've also run into quite a few racist DA, which upsets me. However, what makes me even angrier is the public defenders who treat their clients like low-lifes. That is my biggest pet peeve. It's less obvious, but I've run into two who really made me angry.

    It's refreshing to find PDs like you who really care about their clients and want to get represent them zealously.

  10. Another Aussie experience. In three years I have been a duty solicitor in various courts over here I've had at least five clients who told me they committed the crime to get into jail. All were previously institutionalised by either the mental health or 'justice' system. But, in that time I've taken instructions from between five and six thousand people, so the percentage is very low. And it sucks when others usurp the 'right' to make this decision with their assumptions.

  11. Hi there. I'm one of the people who's been through the courts a couple times (and both times it was 100% my fault for being and doing something stupid) and I've faced DAs before who want nothing more than to puff up their conviction record. They're only thinking of one thing: their career. The last time I faced an assistant DA who was running for DA. Guess what he tried to pull on me? "Three Strikes! Obviously this petty thief is a serious menace to society who should be locked away with hardened criminals for twenty five years!" Yeah, nice.

    Y'ask me, the DA should have nothing to do with the sentencing phase. They're there to present evidence to support the peoples' case, not to ruin peoples' lives. Too often the criminal has to face down a DA who doesn't care one whit about justice, but hopes one day to be governor, and knows that tough on crime is a biiiiig selling point for the voters.