This is what happens when human lives are made subject to an unrestricted capitalist turn-for-profit. The Department of Corrections argues legal aid is ‘a very expensive thing for taxpayers’. The humane, just, and obvious solution is not then to outsource this legal aid. It is to decriminalize in a nation that carries the damning distinction of incarcerating its citizens at the highest rate in the world per capita. This is a society that locks up its own so as to not have to be held accountable to them. 16 years ago Portugal decriminalized the use of all illicit drugs and now has one of the lowest drug-induced death rates of any country in the world. Cost-cutting is not a humanism. This same corporatism of a kind with the 2008 Kids for Cash scandal has taught us nothing.
This rhetoric of ‘access’ is perverted doublespeak. Utterly virtual, ‘access’ hedges its bets on a degree of non-fulfillment: that this access will not be taken advantage of. It is a means to dodge responsibility. Unless one is given in advance the knowledge of how, when, where, and why to access this benefit, then no real access has been given: the material conditions necessary to actualize a possibility. In the same way as giving African-Americans access to Little Rock Central High School did not mean they could enter it- they could not until escorted by the 101st Airborne Division.
Legal aid is required by law. This is not a fulfillment of the law; this is an circumvention of it.