Jailed

On July 16th, president Obama visited a federal prison and spoke to the individuals there. The president explained that many of the young men and women who were incarcerated made mistakes, but that these mistakes were not so different from the mistakes the president himself made when he was young. Yet, for minorities and for those without the money to hire a criminal defense lawyer like Howard Greenberg with Greenberg Law Firm in Brooklyn, the president explained that it can be very difficult to “survive those mistakes.”

Others tell similar stories.

One New York Times opinion writer wrote about how, when he was 17, he was charged with felony burglary. The charge would have had an impact on his ability to attend college and his future ability to get hired. Yet, he had access to resources that allowed him to have his charge reduced to probation after which the charge was removed from his record.

Minorities and those without the resources to hire a criminal defense attorney often find themselves imprisoned. When they leave prison, they have a criminal record that affects them for the rest of their lives. Advocates for justice have been urging lawmakers to pass second chance legislation that would give young offenders the second chance that wealthier offenders with access to counsel often receive.

Having a criminal record can seriously diminish a person’s ability to be hired. While some employers are understanding, many employers simply won’t hire individuals with criminal backgrounds. And, while many are fighting to remove background checks from employment applications, such legislation is likely years away.

There are many factors that lead to the disproportionate number of imprisoned minorities in America’s criminal justice system. African Americans and minorities are more likely to be arrested on drug offenses than non-minority group members. According to the Sentencing Project, class also plays a big role on whether these arrested individuals actually face incarceration. Individuals with more resources are often treated differently in the American justice system. Additionally, when young offenders are criminalized and incarcerated at a young age, they are often set on a course where their only option is to continue to commit crime.

Violent offenders, regardless of race or income face serious sentencing if convicted. But, when it comes to less serious crimes, the courts often have immense discretion in sentencing. Individuals who have access to private defense lawyers may be better able to petition the court for more lenient sentencing. A defense lawyer can also help build a strong case for a client, making it more difficult for prosecutors to secure a conviction. Individuals who rely on court-appointed defense attorney sometimes face a serious disadvantage. These attorneys often have to handle dozens of cases at one time and may not have the resources to provide the personalized attention each charged individual needs. Public defenders are overworked and saddled with high caseloads. Unfortunately, given budgetary constraints, these realities aren’t likely to change any time soon.

A private criminal defense lawyer like Howard Greenberg in Brooklyn, however, has the time and resources to provide personalized attention. Healing America’s crippled justice system will likely take years. Second chance laws may be a good step in the right direction, but until these laws are passed, individuals facing felony or misdemeanor charges are wise to ensure that they use all the resources available to them. For many individuals, this means hiring a private criminal defense law firm  such as www.hgreenberglawfirm.com that can fight for a charged individual’s freedom and rights.