Speedy justice and the right-to-counsel are the backbone of the US criminal justice system. But a majority of the men and women locked up in America's 3,000 jails are there before even having a trial.

Many are locked up only because they are too poor to afford bail. They are legally innocent, but find themselves waiting for their day in court behind bars.

You have to be efficient, you have to prioritise, you have to be organised, you have to be devoted... sometimes we are all these guys got.

D.J. Brickey, public defender 

In the meantime, they are separated from their families, may lose their jobs or their homes, experience the trauma of incarceration, incur debts, and may plead guilty - even when innocent - just to get out of jail.

"I have things about me that jail helped form. You get mental scars from this... they never leave you alone," says Donovan Drayton, a former Rikers Island inmate. 

With nearly 12 million jail admissions a year, courts are backlogged and public defender systems across the country are overloaded.

"How many kids have they thrown away... they do this to guys, they do this to families, they drain their money, they drain their relationships, they drain their children. They put fear in people, they do it every day," says Ronny Drayton, Donovan's father. 

Fault Lines travels to New York, Mississippi and California to investigate pretrial justice at the county level and incarceration before conviction.

Source: Al Jazeera