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Models of the Criminal Justice Process, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1044

Essay

The criminal justice system is an intricate network of varying departments with somewhat ambiguous and conflicting goals.  The primary triad consists of the police, the courts and corrections.  The core belief at the heart of the system lies in the Constitution and the rights set forth within it.  According to Fradella and Neubauer all three systems are fragmented and act as a nonsystem (2011).  Further they posit, “[t]he fragmentation within the three components of the nonsystem of criminal justice is compounded by the decentralization of the government,” (Fradella&Neubauer 2011). Ultimately, the jurisdictional breakdown can and does have unintended consequences on all three actors in the criminal justice process.

First, it is crucial to understand exactly how these ambiguities and fragmentations arise.  The legislative and executive branches of government have a serious hand in how law is made, who writes laws, who the law serves and how the subsequent systems and processes will proceed forth.  On a fundamental level, the relationship between the legislative and executive branches and the public are of dire importance.  These two branches are publicly elected officials that appear to cater to the very ambiguous needs of the public and their perceived need for safety.  In response, law is written based on mostly false premises to fulfill the needs of the general public while the remaining systems that enforce, mediate, punish and rehabilitate are left with little resources to complete the tasks at hand.  As a result, “the tendency to seek social change through legal reform has intensified since the late 1950’s,” (Friedrichs 2010).  The paradox that surrounds the triad of processes involved in the criminal justice system is cumbersome and generally at odds with the other’s goals.

Law enforcement officers are at the forefront of the criminal justice system.  Their main objective is to uphold criminal law and to maintain civil order.  In return for these enhanced protections under the crime control model, we as citizens forfeit some of our rights.  Since the 1980’s, the police role has changed dramatically.  Law enforcement officials weren’t any longer concerned with a reactive style of policing.  Slowly they integrated new strategies (Problem Oriented Policing) to tackle crime spurts and trends.  And in an attempt to build their roles even further, law enforcement implemented a philosophy known as Police Community Relations.  This philosophy gave communities a chance to actively work with law enforcement through programs such as Neighborhood Watch, Crime Stoppers, etc. which ultimately resulted in a more proactive style of policing.  Unfortunately, due to ambiguous legislation and the advent of fake wars (War on Crime, War on Drugs, War on Terror) police departments have had to uphold this new law of the land.  As a result, many more arrests were made, many more prosecutions/plea bargains were negotiated and prisons filled to capacity and then some.

The court system is the next logical stop in the criminal justice process.  Once a person has been arrested and the prosecution decides to try the case, the right to a speedy trial begins.  The court system then has the onus to hear the case and then impose punishment.  The paradox that surrounds the court system is that they tend to be categorized as the bad guys for injustice.  The courts have been blamed for too light of sentences, whereby the public feels that justice hasn’t been served as retributively as they desire, or they are viewed as the stiff arm of the law because of capital punishments and long periods of incarceration.  However, just as the police they are bound to the same legislation passed along.  Courts and judges particularly have been stripped of their discretionary roles and are bound to indeterminate sentencing laws, mandatory minimums, and truth in sentencing laws which they are required to uphold.

The corrections system has also been severely impacted and limited by ambiguous legislation with the emphasis placed on incarceration. While data exists to support rehabilitation, vocational programs, intermediate sanctions and drug and alcohol treatments, the mantra is lock them up and throw away the key.  Prisons are severely overcrowded and so much so that Eighth Amendment violations federally require mandatory release of tens of thousands of prisoners.  Yet, reentry into the community is too little avail. Tax payer’s dollars are allocated in accordance with the latest political platform therefore, actually providing the services (which cost less than strict incarceration) that may reduce recidivism rates, quit clogging up the court system and overcrowding our prisons aren’t viable options.

The complexities surrounding the criminal justice system and the processes associated with it are tough at best to deal with.  The court system is the central focus of our system. The reasons for this are twofold.  First, the courts are where victims feel justice or injustice is served; accused persons either feel that due process of the law has been served or that they have been wrongfully convicted.  Second, the court system is the epicenter of the other two processes.  They act as a sort of middle man from arrest to prison or intermediate sanction.  The other conundrum that surrounds the court system is that they are rarely a part of the law making process so once law has been written, it is their job to uphold that law or challenge it on Constitutionality.  Realistically, the judicial process is in the middle of two major systems; the federal government and branches of the state government.  It has been posited that the criminal justice system is a sort of self fulfilling prophecy in that the stereotypical criminal are the ones that are tried for various street crimes while almost completely ignoring other types of crime, (Leighton &Reiman 2010).  Until the public, legislators and presidents get on the same page as the system, we will continue to see what we have seen.  The system isn’t sustainable in its current form yet viable options for change haven’t even been discussed.

Works Cited

Fradella, H.F. &Neubaugher D.W. (2009). Courts, Crime, and Controversy. In Carolyn H. Meier (Ed.).America’s Courts (pp. 2-22). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Friedrichs, D.O. (2010).  Law and the Social Control of white Collar Crime. In Carolyn H. Meier (Ed.).  Trusted Criminals (pp. 250-276). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Leighton, P. &Reiman, J. (Eds.).  (2010).  And the Poor Get Prison. The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison (pp. 110-171).  Boston, MA: Pearson.

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