Fairness and Effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System Assignment

Fairness and Effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System Assignment Words: 1685

1 I am obliged to comment on the fairness and effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). To understand this statement and form an opinion I will analyze particular arms of the CJS, define their roles and purpose, and make an informed considered opinion about the fairness and effectiveness of the system, if at all. In fashionable fairness I will construct arguments for and against the statement with reference to its strengths and weaknesses and draw my own conclusions from these. To say that the CJS is fair and effective as we can reasonably expect is both bold and brave. But however bold or brave the tatement remains inconclusive. Only close analysis can shed light on the underlying assumptions made in that statement. First, the current system we have is by far the most effective for our society even when compared to other systems of justice. Secondly, the system is not bullet proof and is susceptible to public scrutiny and criticism. And thirdly, the statement seems to suggest that we the people are settling for what is reasonably expected of the system, rather than looking for clear definitive outcomes. According to Wikipedia (a popular resource site apparently not reliable because of having multiple uthors) The CJS is the system of practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, and sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts (Wikipedia, 2010). The Britannica Macropaedia (a much more reliable source of reference) defines “criminal law, in the broad sense, is the body of law that defines criminal offenses, regulates the apprehension, 2 charging, and trial of suspected persons, and fixes penalties and modes of treatment applicable to convicted offenders (Britannica, 2009). Despite they’re similar but ubtle differences both these definitions (reliable or not) have a common purpose i. e. they focus on the accused or the offender by imposing on them the laws of justice. Three main components makeup the criminal justice system: policing, courts and corrections. Each component is responsible for enforcing the laws, rules and policies that govern each arm. The word ‘system’ implies some logical connection between the parts… ” Griffith University (2010, p1). Some may argue the criminal system is not a system because the parts do not work efficiently together. But looking at the three arms of the system it is lear that there is an order of process in which the system works and deals with matters of unlawful behavior. The investigative (Policing) arm of the CJS functions like a frontline defense for the justice system and its main role is to enforce the law. Wimshurst a lecturer and author at Griffith University who specializes in criminal justice refers to a range of roles that police might play within society as noted by Bradley (1996) which are to: “maintain law and order, prevent the commission of crime, detect criminals, ensure road safety, assist in minor and major emergencies and carry out miscellaneous uties on behalf of government departments”. Despite all these job descriptions the public view of police is rather distorted seeing them only as mere public babysitters (or ‘crim-??? sitters’ as some might refer them), this coming from the fact police exhibit a big-??? brother style of law enforcement keeping a constant suspicious watch on public behavior, rather than serving and upholding public order and deterring unlawful behavior. This view visibly states 3 the misunderstanding of the role of police officers by the community and also shows the rigidness of the relationship between the two. Tensions can cause istrust, doubt, suspicion and isolation from either side. However, in recent times community policing has sought to rebuild the rift and gap of trust between communities and police. This approach links directly to the community by building partnerships, addressing community concerns and being accountable to each other. In cases where police can’t decide a final outcome because of the nature of the crime the matters are referred to the courts to determine the findings and sentencing of the accused. The judicial (courts) arm of the system is not responsible for enforcing the law but rather interprets the law and pplies it to the facts in each case. Compared with the other components of the system the judicial arm plays an essential role in that it gives the accused a much better chance of presenting their case. In March 2005 at the Iraqi Judges and Prosecutors and International Human Rights Law Conference, Justice Roslyn G Atkinson delivered a lecture on “The Right to a Fair Trial”(Atkinson, 2005). Her lecture, was based on Chapter 6 of The Manual on Human Rights for Judges, Prosecutors and Lawyers (Rights, & Association, 2003), she addresses key legal texts about the principals of equality and rights of all human eings in the court of law. Atkinson (2005) articulates an interesting but fair key point in the following: You should dismiss all feelings of sympathy or prejudice, whether it be sympathy for or prejudice against the defendant or anyone else. No such emotion has any part to play in your decision. [Nor should you allow public opinion to influence you. ] You must 4 approach your duty dispassionately, deciding the facts upon the whole of the evidence. (p. 4) The last sentence commits total detachment from any emotional influence and forces any decision made by a judge, jury or court to be purely and solely based n evidence. Thus ultimately leading to a fair sentence. Arguably this is easier said than done. Fact is we aren’t dispassionate robotic machines with programmed emotionless DNA. We are all human and even judges and jury’s can get caught up in sensitive rare cases where for example children are involved. If this were not the case then it would be pointless to say that our justice laws are somehow influenced by the same morals and principles that define us a human. However, regardless of this truth a ruling by a court without sympathy or prejudice for or against anyone and which is decided solely on facts and vidence cannot be challenged unless there is reasonable doubt in which case an appeal is lodged. Some may say it’s a fair granting of the right to an appeal. Others may disagree otherwise. But in the court of law there are legal processes and procedures, all of which have been cautiously locked into the judicial arm to maintain a fair and just court system. Just as equally fair if not effective is the corrections (penal) arm of the system. The core function of this component of the CJS is to carryout the sentence handed down by the courts. The lawbreaker is penalized using various methods of punishment; this acts s a weapon of deterrence for future crime offenders and non-??? offenders. The two most commonly known and used is custodial (incarceration) and community corrections. Both being widely used are meant to deter offenders from re-??? offending especially amongst parolees. History although 5 tells a different story. A joint study released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and the Research Division of the NSW Department of Corrective Services, concluded sixty-??? four per cent of offenders released from prison on parole re-??? offend within two years of release (BOCSAR, 2006). In the same article the irector of the Bureau reveals, “that while a 64 per cent re-??? offending rate is high, it is actually slightly lower than that recently recorded by researchers studying re-??? offending amongst parolees in Britain”(Weatherburn, 2006). Despite these figures predicting a rise in overall criminal offences between 2006 till present, the recent March quarterly for 2010 crime statistics state otherwise. A downward trend in popular crimes such as robbery, theft, fraud and malicious damage to property has seen the national crime rate either stabilize or fall (BOCSAR, 2006). Despite a modest but healthy decline in crime igures the system cannot give explanation to the decrease in community-??? based orders (CBO) and increase in prison population. According to Lanham, Bartal, Evans and Wood (2006, p1) “the criminal law is there not only to punish and control the offender, but also to offer him or her a considerable measure of protection through a genuinely judicial system of punishment and control”. Lanham et al. examine the different aspects of the justice system and their purpose. They identified three main categories: protection of the offender; punishment of the offender; and protection of the community. Demonstration f fairness is clearly outlined in the first category, which affirms protection for the accused against disproportionate punishment and unofficial retaliation also known as “Montero’s Aim”, which refers to the need to protect suspected offenders when people take matters into their own hands Walker (1969, p17). This is just one reason why laws and policies were created over the course of 6 time. In olden days the responsibility of punishment rested on the victim of the crime to take revenge or retaliate in retribution against the wrongdoer. Retribution would be in the form of a physical act guided by the old iblical adage “an eye for an eye” (White & Perrone, 2005). More recently the modern world has introduced other forms of punishment to deal with this kind of retributive behavior. The days of fighting fire-??? with-??? fire have long disappeared with the historic traditions of the past medieval world. In today’s world crime is not only committed against the victim but also towards society. The offender is punished by the state (which is where the power is) on behalf on the victim and is used as an example for deterrence. Whilst one cannot pretend that the question of fairness and effectiveness of the CJS within the onfines of the law is overall reasonable. This paper has briefly shown the variations in which those reasons can be extended to. Recently the Victorian Premiere John Brumby (2010) announced the recruitment of 1700 extra frontline police to tackle crime within the state. Some may call it a political stunt for votes leading to the next state of federal election others may disagree. Bottom line is, if crime rates are rising, is this our best solution to the problem? I beg to differ. Clearly the past has only shown us that more police presence can only invoke more suspicion amongst society’s social network. Rather

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