Assessment of the impact of plea bargaining on the American criminal justice system. Box notes: Plea bargaining is a shortcut to justice that settles nearly 90% of the criminal prosecutions in the United States. It works this way: the accused agrees to plead guilty, and in return, the prosecutor agrees to lower the charge he faces-- often to an extent which will bring a suspended sentence. it seems equitable at first glance, but it results in overcharging by police; the building of records and probation by those who are more interested in getting out of jail than going to trial; and it takes pressure off of the criminal justice system since it provides a safety valve. Without plea bargaining, it is generally agreed, the courts would collapse. In essence, then, it means the guarantee of a trial is a myth. This program explores these issues as they come up in San Francisco. The participants are public defenders, the accused, judges, prosecutors, and police -- those who deal with this issue daily in a major American city. The locale is San Francisco; the problem is everywhere. Produced by Sheila McAleenan.
Contains sensitive language.