I ran across the following article today http://blog.al.com/wire/2011/12/budget_cuts_cause_delays_in_al.html
For those who don't care to read the whole article, let me give a quick summary. The Alabama Department of Forensic Science does all the “CSI” work for law enforcement agencies statewide. They perform autopsies, analyze blood samples for alcohol and drugs, analyze suspected drugs to see if they are illegal substances, perform firearms and ballistic comparisons and DNA comparisons among other things. In the past 3 years their budget has been cut 33%. They are now looking at another 20-25% cut next year. District Attorneys (the prosecutors) have been cut the same and are looking at the same cuts next year.
The head of the budget writing legislators (House Ways & Means committee) is quoted as saying “we have already cut all the muscle, now we are cutting the bones of state agencies”, however there will be no additional revenue or fees considered.
Now, let me put that in a real life scenario:
A woman is raped in your neighborhood. Police develop a suspect and the victim positively identifies “Defendant X” as the man who rapes her. Defendant X is adament that he did not rape anyone and has never met the victim.
During the trial you learn that DNA from the rapist was recovered from the victim but was never compared to Defendant X because Forensics Science did not have the money. The jury acquits because the State could have, but did not remove any doubt because of budget cuts or the jury convicts without the DNA evidence.
A child is raped by a defendant. The mother is a vital witness against the defendant. The mother moves herself and her child as far away from the attacker as possible. When it comes time for trial, the mother can not afford to fly herself and child back to Alabama. Neither can the prosecutor because of budget cuts. The defendant walks.
A gang has been kicking doors in and burglarizing homes. It is only a matter of time until they select a house where someone is home. They are caught and the evidence is overwhelming. However the District Attorney has had to cut so many prosecutors that he an not take the cases to trial. The defendants are released.
I put these forth because I think budget cuts are too often an abstraction to citizens and legislators. Yet budget cuts have the very real consequences set forth above.
So I ask, what price justice? Or maybe the better question is, how much justice are we willing to pay for?