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Copyright (c) 2010 The Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law
The Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

SYMPOSIUM: What's Wrong With the Criminal Justice System and How We Can Fix It

Spring, 2010

Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

7 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 515


Andrew D. Leipold*



Criticizing the criminal justice system is easy, with the list of grievances long and familiar. Criminal cases are often processed on an assembly line, leaving too little time and attention for each matter. The high volume puts enormous pressure on all the players to resolve cases through negotiation, leading at times to either under-punishment of serious criminality, or over-punishment of those who might be innocent or less guilty than charged, but who still plead guilty to avoid a trial. Police have enormous discretion in investigating and arresting, but the quality of the police work is uneven and hard to monitor. Many defendants need appointed counsel, but funding for public defenders is so low that only the bare minimum of an accused's needs are likely to be met. The constitutional requirements of criminal procedure are developed case-by-case by the judiciary, making it very hard to predict where the next turn in the road will be. (Raise your hand if you predicted the Apprendi and Booker line of cases.) We incarcerate a very high number of citizens, and the burdens of imprisonment do not fall equally on all groups. And so on.

Being critical is not only easy, but important. The impact of a single, serious crime on the victim, the accused, and their families is often profound, and the long- term consequences can stretch beyond our ability to measure. Anything that is this central to the quality of our lives must be constantly monitored, and when the people and institutions ...
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