Plea bargains benefit judges, prosecutors, criminal defendants, and even American taxpayers. Judges are motivated to accept plea bargains because they ease the burden on the courts’ crowded calendars. In reality, judges are dealing with a backlog of cases, and simply don’t have the time to give every case the attention it deserves. Prosecutors are dealing with similar issues as judges.
Our Jails and Prisons are Overcrowded
In the United States, especially in states with high imprisonment rates, such as Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, and Arizona, judges are dealing with overcrowded jails and prisons. Sometimes, judges have to let convicted people out early (before they complete their sentences) so they can make room for new offenders to come in.
Generally, judges see the value in processing offenders out of jail via plea bargains, particularly when the offenders are not likely to spend much time behind bars anyway. By prioritizing who should be incarcerated and who can be let go, it reduces overcrowding and the likelihood that a serious offender will be let out before he or she has completed their sentence.
The ultimate goal is to keep the violent offenders behind bars, while allowing the less-serious offenders to be supervised in the community; this is frequently accomplished with plea bargains.
Not Enough Room on Calendars
Not only is the judge concerned about clogged courtroom calendars, the prosecutor has the same concerns. When the judge’s calendar is spilling over, he or she will order the prosecutors to push their cases along faster. In order to appease the judge, prosecutors are focused on moving their cases as quickly as possible.
Like judges, prosecutors are overburdened with cases. When the prosecutor has too much on his or her plate, so does their staff. Because of this common problem, prosecutors prefer to resolve less serious, non-violent cases with a plea bargain. This way, they can reserve their time, energy, and financial resources for the serious cases, such as manslaughter and murder.
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