The criminal law is society’s most drastic tool for regulating conduct. When it is used against conduct that a large segment of society considers normal, and which is not seriously harmful to the interest of others, contempt for the law is encouraged. When it is used against conduct that is involuntary and the result of illness, such as addiction, the law becomes inhumane. When it becomes a means for arbitrary or abusive police conduct, it can cause hostility, tension, and violence. One major source of crime in the United States is overcriminalization. ~ A Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (1970), chaired by American educational administrator Milton Eisenhower
Under the pretense of justice, the modern American criminalization system universally serves to create societal castoffs and destitution. Defending oneself against a wrongful misdemeanor charge can easily cost up to a year’s salary for those least able to afford it. The penalty for not doing so can be higher.
In 1974, President Richard Nixon created a federal legal services agency to provide free legal assistance to low-income people. 70% of those seeking legal help are poor women in dire need. The agency’s miniscule budget means that half of those who need the service are turned away.
30 cost-benefit analyses all show that legal aid returns far more benefits than costs to communities across America. ~ American lawyer Linda Klein, President of the American Bar Association, in 2017
Republicans since Nixon have opposed government funding of legal services, miserly and mean-spiritedly arguing that helping people in need is not the government’s responsibility. These are the same men who have no issue with ladling largesse to corporations and the wealthy.