The Founders loved jury trials. Almost no one gets one anymore.

That tool has been supplanted by the plea bargain. In popular culture, that’s widely seen as advantageous to defendants. In reality, it’s been disastrous. It epitomizes government coercion. It epitomizes what the Founders warned against.

That’s because the places where we’re accustomed to seeing the criminal legal system play out—on shows like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit—can’t and don’t account for how plea “deals” often work in practice. The bulk of a prosecutor’s job is not spent in the hallowed halls of a courtroom participating in a high-stakes battle over someone’s liberty, all while journalists wait in the wings to capture the victor’s speech on marble steps. It’s spent in backrooms, with district attorneys “charge-stacking,” or filing multiple criminal charges against someone for the same offense, calculating a grisly potential prison sentence, and offering to make some of that go away—so long as the defendant in question does not exercise his or her constitutional right to a trial by jury.

If they refuse, then they will risk a substantially higher time behind bars, not because a prosecutor views it as necessary for public safety but because he or she dared to inconvenience them with a trial. After all, what the defendant is accused of didn’t change. But trials are expensive. And the government can never be sure when it will win, so better to avoid them where possible.