* Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield has long been a critic of grade inflation. He’s developed his own way of trying to combat it: giving students two sets of grades — the one they deserve and the one that shows up on their transcript.
In a landmark 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision on the right to a lawyer during plea bargaining, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that 95 percent of convicted U.S. criminal defendants enter into a plea bargain and never go to trial. That percentage is even higher for drug defendants, who enter into plea deals in 97 percent of federal cases, according to a new Human Rights Watch report. Prosecutors have had a significant hand in turning the criminal justice system into a system of pleas, wielding in many instances the threat of harsh mandatory minimum prison terms and other sentencing enhancements so severe that defendants may frequently plead guilty simply to avert the high risk. As Human Rights Watch phrased it, prosecutors “force” defendants to plead guilty.
The consequences for those who choose to exercise their Sixth Amendment right to a trial in this system are significant. The average federal drug sentence is three times longer for those who go to trial than for those who plead guilty, at 5 years and 4 months for guilty pleas, and 16 years after trial, the report found…