In our opinion: Consider people
September 23, 2011 · 11:04 AM
Bureaucracy looks at community in numbers. On occasion, the big decisions of leadership are illustrated with a single person.
Going into budget cuts for the fourth straight year, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners has the ever harder job of squeezing a belt already drawn to the hipbone.
We encourage the commissioners to keep in mind the individual citizen, the one on whom the whole shebang is built, as they make long-reaching decisions when calling for deeper cuts to the general fund in effort to ballance the budget.
Particularly troubling is the lauding of a 2011 cuts that shaved $500,000 out of public defense inside the prosecutor’s office to balance the budget. It’s an example that should be questioned.
A county commissioner recently applauded the prosecutor’s ability to push felony cases, normally tried in Superior Court, down into District Court by increasing the number of plea bargains. The commissioner said civil cases in Superior Court have increased as a result. Those are cases that pay fees in cash.
There are actually two net results of pushing plea bargains; the county contributes the “savings” to balance the budget on the macro view while the county’s poor and disenfranchised get served a lesser choice-less judicial system on the individual basis.
Under a dominant plea system poor people simply don’t have access to the jury trial system that residents with the education or money do to offer a defense in a jury trial.
With or without intent, the effect is that the prosecutor’s office becomes a triad of “justice” for the county when it is intended to be one leg of a stool.
Alone the prosecutor becomes the cop, judge and jury with the ability to press on those they believe are guilty. With costs of Superior Court involved, further aggravation such as higher prosecutorial charges encourage a plea of something lesser to avoid the presumed “gamble” of a jury.