The Economist is one of Steven's favorite publications. In the January 26th 2013 issue, an article was printed titled "THUMB ON THE SCALE: How Mandatory Minimum Sentences Distort Plea Bargaining."
While plea bargaining can certainly reduce the burden of our over-scheduled courts, and can work to the advantage of all parties, there is a downside. Our over-burdened court system, combined with mandatory minimum sentences has led to a beyond over-burdened prison system.
The article concludes with the call that all defendants should have the right to see the evidence the state has collected against them -- INCLUDING EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE -- before the defendant accepts a plea bargain.
The article can be read in its entirety on The Economist's website.