It Has Become Disturbingly Easy to Be a Criminal These Days

I don’t have a lot in common politically with Thomas Edsall, but this piece, decrying “poverty capitalism” deserves to be read by lots and lots and lots of people. Edsall points out that in a host of municipalities and localities, being too poor to pay exorbitant court fines can get people tossed in jail. As though that were not bad enough, “poverty capitalism” is leading to the diminishment of a number of constitutional rights–most notably, the right to counsel. It used to be that if you could not afford a lawyer, one would be provided to you by the court. The famous Miranda warnings even promise as much. Nowadays, however, criminal defendants are being charged for the services of public defenders. Is this supposed to allay concerns that the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution is becoming a dead letter?

Relatedly, in what parallel universe is it all right to tase a person for the crime of sitting in a public place while being black and refusing–in a manner entire consistent with one’s constitutional rights–to give one’s name to the police when one has not been charged with any crime whatsoever?