How do political attitudes and ideas about crime affect disparities in the criminal justice system?

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Political attitudes affect disparities in the criminal justice system because politicians in each state are responsible, for example, for determining, to some extent, the way in which people accused of crimes are treated. In some states, criminal defense attorneys with experience in criminal cases are appointed by the court to defend indigent defendants. In other states, any lawyer—regardless of whether that person has experience with criminal cases—can be appointed to defend accused people in criminal cases who require court-appointed attorneys. Therefore, people who live in states that appoint more seasoned criminal defense lawyers have better representation in court.

According to Caroline Wolf Harlow from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (see the link below), of the defendants who were found guilty in criminal cases, a greater percentage of clients who had publicly financed lawyers (88%) were sentenced to prison compared to the defendants with privately financed lawyers (77%). Therefore, political attitudes about crime, including who the court appoints as lawyers for indigent clients in each state, affects disparities in the criminal justice system. Defendants with court-appointed lawyers tend to be people of color, and they are sentenced to prison or jail at higher rates than those defendants with private counsel.

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