The Criminal Justice System: It’s Effectiveness and Controversy

1. Of the 3 major criminal justice system components (police, courts, corrections), which do you believe has had the most success in achieving the dual criminal system’s goals of controlling crime while upholding individual due process rights? Support your position. Give an example.

In order for the criminal justice system (CJS) to work fluidly and in conjunction with the citizens of the United States, the recognition of civil liberties and due process rights are imperative to a satisfying result. Crime is a plague of epic proportions. Criminals are incessant in their remorseless attempts at harming and defiling people for their own egocentric gains and pleasures.

Because crime is consistent and seemingly never-ending, the police have a tough job on their hands. Crime can never be cured or eradicated from our society–but it can be controlled and emaciated to bring justice and moral affluence to our citizens. The police of our nation have had much success curbing crime and solidifying its existence into urban cultures and societies. Their wealth of knowledge and sharp street smart skills are unparalleled and have inspired many other foreign nations to take note and reconfigure their own police forces to help curb the violence that rages across our globe. In fact, the police have been so effective, that lowly criminals consider them their worst enemy. The police should feel proud that they’ve had such an effect on the seedy-side of urban society, that this same urban culture would spend their time and energy creating derogatory rap songs like F*** The Police (N.W.A.) and Cop Killer (Ice-T & Body Count). Truly the police have made their mark on urban society and its trivial outlook on truth, justice, and the American Way.

With that being said, some people would argue that these seemingly colorful views on police (and society in general) are justified by a few major discrepancies involving police officers committing crimes. It doesn’t help that the media glamorize and galvanize police crimes with realistic shows like The Wire (2000-2008)Crash (2008-2009), and The Shield (2002-2008), among others (although shows like The Commish (1991-1996) and Dragnet (1951-1959) portrayed the lighter and more ethically moral side of police work). Although such high-profile crimes like the LAPD assault on Rodney Kingthe Rampart Scandal, and the illegal coercion and torture of Lester Eugene Siler by five Campbell County Tennessee Sheriff’s deputies show negligent decisions made by police officers, this necessarily does not condemn nor sum up the work of peace officers. In my opinion, this area of negativity can solely be blamed on the misdiagnosis of the pre-screening of cadets when facing employment. Police officers have a major job to do when apprehending criminals and keeping the streets safe from crime. They, however, are not the most successful in achieving the CJ system’s goals of controlling crime; mainly because the officer’s role ends with the arrest and does not exceed the courts. I do find them productive at upholding individual due process rights by enacting the proper rules and regulations.

Along with police officers, the court systems have a very important place in the CJS system when trying and convicting criminals. This component of the CJS system is very open to the public (as is the police officer’s job) and therefore highly criticized substantially more by the public and media, than corrections (but equally as much as police officers). I believe that the courts have a very good success rate when achieving the CJ system’s dual goals but fall short because they lack the ability to control crime on the street level. The courts, by far, achieve high levels of success for upholding individual due process rights.

Corrections have a better advantage than the courts (and about par with police officers) when attempting to control crime, and they do a good job at upholding individual due process rights. Among the prison systems, probation and parole are integral when combating crime and reforming criminals so that they may enter society. Parole is justly because of its willingness to let convicts free if they abide by a certain behavior. Probation is great in that it allows would-be convicts to be released into the community while help with employment and trade training are available. James A. Fagin reveals in his book, CJ2010, that “46.3% of adults leave probation by successfully completing the terms, while 2.7% are returned to prison for new crimes committed and 17.8% are sent to prison for not completing the terms of probation” (Fagin 191). These numbers alone show that convicted criminals are given due process as well as helped to curb their criminal behaviors by giving them choices in their lives.

2. What suggestions do you have that could help improve the CJ system’s effectiveness in better achieving these dual goals (individual due process rights and controlling crime? Why would it work?

One suggestion I would have (and strongly recommend) would be to create an entirely new universal screening process to be used when hiring police officers, border patrol agents, federal agents, correctional agents, etc. The screening process in effect now differs not only by state but also by city and county. Be enhancing the screening process and filtering through to hire the elite over the under-par, the enforcement agencies of the US would be able to flourish and no such disreputable officers will be hired.

The screening process used today is made-up of various parts that work together to help formulate an overall sense of character and healthy psychological  moral standards. As seen in today’s ruthless events played out by constitution-disgracing ‘gangsters with badges’, the CJS is in dire need of reform when placing armed men and women into communities to enforce and enact laws set forth by our government. The screening process would hold high standards and eliminate any threat of deceit and wrongdoing on the officer’s part. More strict prison sentences should follow defiled officers as well, in order to maintain fairness within the courts.

3. Research and describe a publicized event that has positively or negatively impacted one of the components of the CJS (identify which component) and discuss its relevance and importance to the dual goals of the criminal justice system.

The CJS is set forth to positively affect the public and provide peace and solidarity to all citizens and persons inhabiting our nation. I believe that our CJS effectively does this in unison and provides justly civil liberties and services. However, there are those that slip through the cracks of the system and most of the time the end result to this slippage is extremely severe and a public relations nightmare.

I’ve already mentioned a plethora of unethical and highly controversial events surrounding police officers turning their against their badge and succumbing  to the criminal lifestyle they are sworn to combat and protect against. The one thing that rings the most with me would have to be the Rampart Scandal of the LAPD. Although this is the most severe and notorious scandal to ever rock the enforcement world, it was more focused on completing personal and profitable gains for the police officers involved. The one single law enforcement event that is notorious for both upending the dual goals of the CJ system would have to be the attempted coercion and subsequent beating and torture of felony drug pusher Lester Eugene Siler.

On July 8th, 2004, five Campbell County Tennessee Sheriffs were indicted and subsequently convicted of felony conspiracy to violate civil rights by beating and torturing Lester Eugene Silas into submitting his signature to an illegal affidavit giving the officer’s permission to search and seize and and all property relating to the possession and distribution of narcotics. This relevance to the enforcement  and success of the CJS’s dual goals is imperative in that it specifically went against the 4th and 5th amendments that protect U.S. citizens from violation of their individual due process rights. These officers explicitly disregarded any and all civil liberties and resorted to mafioso techniques to get what they wanted. The damage done to Campbell County and its subsequent departments is something that will forever protrude and damper the community. The trust given to these officers was mismanaged and this, in turn, strikes down the goal of trying to curb and control criminal activity. The officers involved tried to use criminal activity (similar to the Rampart officers) in the name of the War On Drugs. This not only incited major upheaval of the department’s personnel and case files but also gave the War On Drugs a bad agenda.

This incident was managed very carefully and swiftly by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I.) and has since been a major focus on the screening and training of police officers. Not only does this incident justify a much needed universal screening process of hiring to the entire nation but it also solidifies the need for more court intervention when processing and serving warrants and affidavits. Let us hope that no more incidents of epic failure are written in the near future so that the CJS may flourish and gain acceptance and recognition for the excellent work it has and can put forth.

WORKS CITED

Fagin, James A. CJ2010. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2011. Print

Satterfield, Jamie. “Latest News – Tape Reveals Terrifying Campaign In War On Drugs.” Home Page of the November Coalition. 6 Feb. 2005 Web. 16 Mar. 2011

<http://www.november.org/stayinfo/breaking3/WODCampaign.html>.

Townsend, Kelly. “Interogation in Campbell County.” Knox News: Local. Web. 16 Mar. 2011

<http://www.piratenews.org/KnoxNews-com-torture-archive.html>.

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