Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) scolded public defenders while campaigning in Missouri on Monday, alleging that the legal system does not provide decent attorneys.
Speaking before a crowd in St. Louis, the socialist senator from Vermont said that the high number of incarceration rates are attributable to people’s inability to afford bail, adding that people often plead guilty in a case because their public defender does a poor job of negotiating on their behalf.
“So you stay in jail, you may have to negotiate a plea bargain which gives you a criminal record. Maybe you’re innocent. But you can’t get out of jail,” Sanders said, as reported by Fox News. “You don’t have a decent lawyer because you can’t afford a decent lawyer, and the legal system is not providing you with a decent lawyer.”
While Sanders may indeed be a shining a light on corners of the legal system where, indeed, people get stuck with incompetent attorneys, as noted by Fox News, the legal system spans multiple states and jurisdictions, employing attorneys “from a variety of backgrounds and law schools.” It would be difficult to pin this on the entire “legal system” without pointing out specific regions where courts might experience the kind of glut that leads to bureaucratic incompetence, such as metropolitan areas.
Though Sanders’ condemnation of the legal system, in this case, may have more universal appeal, especially among the working class, his past proposals for criminal justice reform veered into the insanely radical, such as when he proposed voting rights for convicted felons.
“Look, this is what I believe. Do you believe in democracy?” Sanders said at a town hall last year. “Do you believe that every single American, 18 years of age or older who is an American citizen, has the right to vote? Once you start chipping away at that, believe me that’s what our Republican governors all over this country are doing. I believe every single person does have the right to vote.”
Sanders said this when CNN moderator Chris Cuomo asked him to clarify if he actually meant to extend voting rights to people who have committed some of the vilest crimes on the book, including the Boston Marathon bomber.
Naturally, Bernie Sanders faced severe backlash from both the Left and the Right for those remarks, but, being true to form, the socialist senator doubled-down on his position when confronted.
“At a time when the Republican Party and Donald Trump are working overtime to suppress the vote, to make it harder for people of color and poor people, young people to vote, we have got to make it clear, in my view, that if you are an American citizen, even if you do something terrible, even if you’re a bad person, we cannot take away your right to vote whether you’re in jail or whether you’ve left jail,” Sanders said. “Four years ago people disagreed with me for Medicare-for-all, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, criminal justice reform, and spending a trillion dollars on rebuilding our infrastructure. People disagreed with me, they’ll disagree with me now. If you’re a citizen of this country, you have the right to vote and I will oppose all efforts to try to deny Americans the right to participate in our democracy.”