500 WORD ESSAY , APA FORMAT , SCHOLARLY PEER REVIEWED REFERENCES , COLLEGE LEVEL.
In a short essay provide an overview of the rationale as to why some view see the American process of rendering criminal justice as a nonsystem.
TO ASSIST BELOW ARE LESSON NOTES
LESSON NOTES :
The Criminal Justice NON-System
Because the three sections of the criminal justice system overlap and yet are frequently viewed as well as operate as separate entities, some view it as a nonsystem. The perspective of the nonsystem stems from the fact that each section has its own history and culture, ergo influencing the direction and flow of development.
For example, each state, each county, and nearly every city or town has their own form of law enforcement. Additionally, as you are likely aware, each state, county, and city/town has varying perspectives as to what activities are legal and which are not – – like is burning leaves legal or not? Is it legal to turn right at a red light? While these may appear to be minor issues, they do communicate a sense of disjointedness promoting the idea of the criminal justice process being a nonsystem.
The same is true of the judiciary process – the courts. Just consider the varying people who are involved in the judiciary process – – judges, clerks, attorneys, record keepers, court officers, paralegals, etc. All of these people play a role toward assisting with the running of the system, but each does this from a different perspective in terms of what is deemed a priority. Again, a system that functions, sometimes within an atmosphere of confusion, is characteristic of a nonsystem.
Lastly, corrections – this not only includes jails and prisons, but also half-way houses, treatment programs, parole services, and house-arrest situations. The center of focus for each these varies according to the goal – a nonsystem within a system!
Whether your perspective is that criminal justice is a system or a nonsystem may be determined by what you know about it and your own history and experience with it. The same is true of each member of society – – some praise law enforcement, but have issues with the judiciary process; some have a love-hate relationship with law enforcement, but view corrections as being bias. Other people like and agree with the process as a whole as long as everything goes their way or the way they feel it should and despair of the whole process if they disagree.
On this note, let’s go back to the personalized view of each section, beginning with law enforcement.
“Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.” – Robert Kennedy
The beginning of the criminal justice system actually begins prior to entrance (arrest) into the system – – it begins with the commission or suspected commission of a crime or illegal activity. Dependent upon where the crime or suspected commission of crime took place, will determine which agency is called. Then again, if the crime is serious, then it may require the attention of federal law enforcement – – and even then, it varies as to who is responsible for investigating the action and determining whether a crime was actually committed.
As discussed in a previous lesson, the magnitude of the crime and those affected do play a role in society’s view of whether law enforcement was right or wrong in their handling of the issue. For example, in the opening scenario where you are arrested and placed into custody, if this was done because you were burning leaves, society (including you) would likely look at the actions of law enforcement as going a bit too far. However, if you were found trying to burn your neighbor’s garage, then yes, the actions of law enforcement would be appropriate.
Another factor in society’s view is history. Yes, history plays a heavy role in society’s response. If there have been racially motivated incidents in the past, then any action, legal or not, will likely be scrutinized by society with the decision based upon how law enforcement handled it in the past and how they handle it in the present.
In the personal scenario, if your neighbor’s house had burned down a few years ago causing damage to surrounding homes as well, then your actions of burning leaves illegally may cause a bit more concern than if it had never happened. Similarly, if you had a history of not getting along with your neighbor and their garage suddenly caught on fire, and you were viewed walking out of the garage minutes before the fire, then history would indicate you would be a person of interest with respect to law enforcement – as well as your neighbor and members of society who were aware of the situation between you and your neighbor.
“This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
As the quote by the well-known Supreme Court justice suggests, courts are in existence in an effort to interpret and apply the law of the land, not necessarily to issue forth justice. Nearly all of society has one time or another felt that the decision of the courts did not adequately address the issue and true justice was not honored. However, in an effort to serve society through application of law, society has seen fit to establish levels or stages within the judiciary process according to the type of crime.
If the crime is considered really minor, like violating a city ordinance such as burning leaves, then you will likely be fined for the activity. As a whole, society deems the usage of fines for infractions (not following/obeying ordinances or rules) acceptable punishment and rarely, if ever, involves anyone beyond the city or county court clerk who records the payment of the fine.
However, there a bit more serious crimes, called misdemeanors that typically result in not only a fine, but also could include spending some time in jail. The committing of a misdemeanor will involve you within the judicial process to a much more significant degree.
Examples of misdemeanors include speeding, trespassing, vandalism, and public intoxication. The first three of these typically do not result in jail time, although, dependent upon the depth and serious of the action, could. Public intoxication usually does result in at least a night in what is commonly referred to as the “drunk tank.” One stays in the drunk tank, a communal cell, until one is sober and pays a fine.
Society’s attitude regarding the handling of misdemeanors is typically agreeable in terms of the fine and possible jail time. The diversity of opinion of society occurs when addressing more serious crimes, commonly referred to as felonies – these include the misdemeanors mentioned that went further and involved more serious consequences. Like while speeding, the person causes an accident or while drunk, begins fighting and or abusing others where they required medical treatment.
Society’s reaction to the handling of more involved misdemeanors and felonies hinges upon whether this had been a pattern of action for the guilty party, who the victims were, and whether there were suspicions that there were other factors leading to the arrest of the person. Unfortunately, in situations where mistakes are believed to have been made, then society often splits in their attitudes, sometimes causing an escalation of criminal behavior and violence.
In the posed scenario of your neighbor’s garage burning. If there was minor damage, it may be considered a misdemeanor of vandalism (damage to property) and therefore, you would be placed before a local court, fined for your action, forced to pay for the damages, possibly serve a night or two in jail if it appeared you were not in control of your attitude/feelings, and maybe sent to court ordered anger management counseling. However, if the garage actually burned down and or endangered others as well as their property, you could expect not only a large fine, but also jail time in addition to needing some legal guidance in terms of likely being sued by others if they had been hurt or had property damage.
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” ― Nelson Mandela
Corrections is the term used by the judicial system to include the local jail, state penitentiary, and federal prison as well as all other components, such as the above referenced traffic school, court ordered counseling and therapy, and drug treatment centers. In short, society has developed multiple methods for dealing with criminals in an effort to lessen the committing of crimes while simultaneously hoping to rehabilitate the criminals.
Jails are typically designed to hold a convicted person or someone who is awaiting trial for no more than a year. Prisons are reserved for those who have been found guilty of committing more serious crimes and will be isolated from society for more than a year. In short, jails are typically located within the county court house whereas prisons are in separate facilities in various parts of the country and are typically surrounded by barbed wire, electrical fences, as well as guard houses. Once again, society’s view of the correctional system varies due to multiple factors, particularly dependent upon the theory as to why one commits a crime as well as personal and religious beliefs. The result of these various views and opinions is primarily the impetus for the development and expansion of the correctional system.
In the personal scenario we have been following, should you have been found guilty of maliciously burning down your neighbor’s garage, you would likely be imprisoned in jail for a while. If your action was found to be a pattern of behavior, you may be facing additional measures that could possibly include prison. However, based upon where you live and the attitude of the court in terms of the theory upon which the justice system operates, you may be viewed as being capable of being rehabilitated or believed it was a one-time happening you would not be likely to repeat, therefore receive a lighter punishment/sentence.
In closing, whether you view the criminal justice process as a system or nonsystem, the fact remains that society’s opinion and perspective of the various components of law enforcement, the judicial process, and corrections varies on almost by a case-by-case occurrence. The factors of who, what, and why as well as history and theory are important in terms of deciding what actions are deemed appropriate and just as well as which ones are not.
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