(FinalCall.com) – The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of a speedy trial to any person arrested for a crime. That’s the promise.

The reality is that Black young men and women are being warehoused in jails and prisons without the benefit of even a court appearance. This is an outrageous injustice that the country should remedy.

A small light illuminated the problem in a recent article in the Chicago Sun Times newspaper. It reflected the case of several men–known as the “Wrigleyville Three”–who served five years awaiting trial, and once they got there, they were released in 15 minutes! Twenty-nine inmates in the facility have been there five years or more.


Multiply that number by the number of men and women in jails and prison in this country and the financial costs jump out at you, along with the injustice done.

There are more than two million people incarcerated in this country. Half of that number is represented by Black men and women who comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population. That means the Black community is bearing the brunt of lengthy times served while awaiting trial or a hearing.

The cost to the inmates and their families also is incalculable: The dangers one faces as a result of incarceration; the loss of income and family affection; missed precious moments in the family’s history, among many other inconveniences.

There’s also a tremendous cost assumed by the American taxpayer. The cost to hold these three men for five years reached more than $2.9 million. It costs more than $20,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate. It costs about the same to send a person to a decent college or university.

Now multiply that by the millions incarcerated.

The blame for the problem is spread around–from prosecutors and defense attorneys maneuvering to try to wear down witnesses or suspects to delaying so that new evidence can be found. But there’s also a delicate balance, according to watchdog groups like the Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C.

The Project’s director, attorney Malcolm C. Young, notes that while such delay’s unfortunately are the rule rather than the exception, if you push a trial too fast, the defendant may not get the benefit of adequate preparation.

He said long delays are due to a “system failure” where prosecutors may have weak cases and are waiting to strike a deal, or poorly prepared defense attorneys–oftentimes public defenders–who haven’t had the opportunity to spend time on the case due to an overwhelming workload. Extra long pre-trial incarceration frustrates the original goals of the criminal justice system, he said, because “they’re punished before they’re convicted and jail is a poor place to hold people if the goal is to restore them.”

While ascertaining the truth in criminal cases is paramount, many of those who don’t get speedy trials or remain in jail while awaiting trial–especially those in less serious cases–are there because they can’t afford to post bond.

It’s the poor who are held without care or concern to the benefit of increasingly private corporations who are building prison cells that they intend to be occupied. So resolving the issue of overpopulation and bringing speedy trials to poor people in jail doesn’t fit the equation of corporate America that needs bodies to occupy their new cells.

Though it’s a big problem and will take many approaches to resolve all the issues of the criminal justice system, it must be made to work properly. That means the criminal justice system must consist of adequate prosecutors who aren’t interested in feathering their nest for future political gain, skilled defense attorneys who have time to work with their clients from the beginning, fair judges and a jury of peers of the defendant.

A workable solution can be found. It must start with taking the profit out of prison. Then the monies that go into the system must be put to best use–like better pay for more qualified public defenders to reduce the workload. There must also be a component that seriously targets reducing recidivism rates by offering and requiring inmates to take advantage of improved educational and trade skills opportunities while incarcerated.

That’s a start.