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Arrest and Trial - The Bullpen

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 24 Issue: 1 Dated: (1980) Pages: 11-19
Date Published
9 pages
An ex-criminal describes offenders' state of mind and experiences as they go through the legal process, with emphasis on the 'bullpen,' in which groups of offenders await courtroom proceedings.
Therapists treating offenders need to be aware of these experiences, the jargon used, and the client's legal position. Very few defendants in a criminal action go to trial. Instead, each side bargains on the basis of the threat of going to trial. Defendants or their lawyers bargain with prosecutors to get the best terms possible. The prosecutor aims to get a conviction with the least expense possible and tries to get the defendant to cooperate by agreeing to plead guilty to a charge prior to going before a judge. The offender waits for arraignment, a hearing, or plea bargaining in a 'bullpen,' the holding cell for prisoners awaiting their arraignment or hearing. The offender knows about arraignments, hearings appeals, and writs, but does not know the fine points of the law. Not every deal made in court is made at the bullpen. Negotiations are more frequently conducted between lawyers and district attorneys in the client's absence, in between procedures at court. Unfortunately, most defense lawyers will go only so far as their clients or families push them. Too often, because of ignorance or for emotional reasons, the more obliging and repentant the defendant is, the worse the plea and the bigger the sentence. The therapist may have to press the lawyer or contact the probation department or district attorney. District attorneys have little at stake in going to trial, but defendants or lawyers have a great deal at stake. The worst possibility is a maximum sentence. The 'day in court' has become cut and dried. A presentence investigation and report collect the offender's life history and make recommendations regarding a program of rehabilitation. The therapist who steps in at this point must recognize the process through which the offender has come and the kind of bargaining and pressure he must continually undergo.