Introduction to Criminal Justice
1. Competing models of the criminal justice system
Herbert Packer described the criminal justice system as the result of competition between two competing models, the due process, and the crime control models. The criminal justice system tends to strike a balance between the two models. The crime control model postulates the objective of criminal justice is to control criminal behavior. The emphasis here is on convicting the guilty at the risk of mistakenly convicting innocent individuals. The failure of law enforcement officials to bring crime under tight control will ultimately lead to anarchy in the public sphere and the disappearance of critical human freedom (Shelden, Brown, Miller, & Fritzler, 2015). When laws go unenforced then the masses will develop a general disregard for legal controls. Consequently, the law-abiding citizen will suffer injustices and the curtailing of his freedoms. His security of property and person are drastically reduced and his freedom to function as a productive member of society is severely curtailed.
The due process model emphasizes fairness of criminal justice procedures and ensuring that innocent people are not convicted wrongfully (Shelden, Brown, Miller, & Fritzler, 2015). The model accepts the fact that the high level of protection afforded to suspects could result in some guilty people going free owing to the difficulty to convict the guilty. Each stage of the due process model presents potential impediments to pushing the accused further along the criminal justice process.
Our current criminal justice system tends to fall under the crime control model especially after the birth of the war on drugs. The criminal justice system seeks to control crime regardless of the possibility that innocent people may also become convicted. The constant arrests and brutality that people of color face on an everyday basis as the criminal justice system seeks to control crime in the country.
2. Role of Social Class in the Criminal Justice System
Scholars and advocates agree that people from lower social classes continue to be discriminated against in the country’s criminal justice system. Proponents of social interactionism theories on crime assert that the criminal justice system is discriminatory and makes the affluent appear less criminal than the people in lower classes. They contend that the criminals who appear in government criminal statistics are disproportionately poor because the criminal justice system is obsessed with controlling poor communities. This practice significantly raises the chances of future criminality because it labels the residents of these communities criminals at a very young age.
Furthermore, the criminal justice system socially constructs differentially enforced norms to different social groups based on relationships to social class, authority, and power. The problem lays with the fact that most significant crime theories begin with the assumption that crime originates from a lower-class lifestyle or background. Crimes of the powerful are hardly ever included in criminological analyses of the class-crime relationship.
The Werbian social class system in America provides the powerful and resource-advantaged classes to define what constitutes crime and justice. Such a scenario ensures that the harms caused by the elite are rarely treated as crime while the harms caused by the resource-disadvantaged majority are criminalized and severely punished. The criminal justice system hauls in the people in the lowest social class with very few if any middle class or upper class individuals ever being caught by the system.
The trial of O.J. Simpson for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson is a perfect illustration of the role that social class plays in criminal prosecution. The defendant, O.J. Simpson, was able to escape the death penalty owing to his celebrity status and his deep pockets, which gave him the opportunity to defend himself adequately. Due to his enormous wealth, and celebrity status, he was able to conjure reasonable doubt in the jury that eventually led to his acquittal. Many defendants who are accused of murder and are minorities are unable to procure such strong defense teams and end up getting the death penalty.
3. Harm of Crime
Street, corporate, and state crimes all cause harm in the society but the difference comes in the degree of harm caused by each of these types of harm. State crime is considered an international crime and occurs when state elected officials or the government engage in state terror, war crimes, genocide, torture, terrorism, state-corporate crime, state-corporate environmental cover-ups and state corruption. Obviously, state crime causes the biggest harm to the populace by economically devastating the citizens as well as the killing and torturing of the residents. State crime often leads to the infringement of the human rights of the nation’s citizens. Millions end up victimized by the omissions and actions of the state that was put in place to protect them.
Corporate crime also causes harm in the society but to a lesser degree than state crime. Also known as, white-collar crime, corporate crime entails fraudulently obtaining business or profit related outcomes from unsuspecting individuals. The fact that corporate crime is often non-violent does not take away from the knowledge that it causes egregious economic harm to the victims of such crimes. White-collar crimes include price-fixing, computer fraud, embezzlement, environmental law violations, extortion, and bribery. Individuals in the corporate sector who have in-depth knowledge of the financial system of the country often commit such crimes. Millions of households in America have lost their properties, investments, and savings owing to white-collar crimes in the country.
Street crime is a violent act against individuals in communities that involves bodily harm. These harms include homicide, robbery with a weapon, rape, drug-related shootings, and drug trafficking. Some non-violent street crimes have the potential of becoming violent. These include auto theft, petty theft, and property offenses.
4. Uniform Crime Report
The Uniform Crime Reporting Program consists of data collected from local police reports that are maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Shelden et al, 2016). The FBI uses the information to assess and monitor the types and severity of the crimes reported in the country. The main goal of the program is to provide reliable information to be used in law enforcement agencies for the management, administration, and operation processes. The program remains the primary source of information for national estimates for criminality in the country. It provides valid data on criminal trends throughout the years in the United States.
Several criticisms of the UCR program exist. First, the program only reports crimes that are known to the law enforcement agencies. Several crimes go unreported owing to the victims’ fear of reprisal among other reasons. Thus, the information in the program largely underestimates the incidence and prevalence of particular crimes. There is a large difference between the number of crimes committed and the number reported.
Secondly, the program reports on only the most serious crimes that have been committed in the country because it works under a hierarchy rule (Shelden, et al, 2016). If multiple offenses have been committed during a single crime, only the most serious crime is reported leading to a misrepresentation of the incidence and prevalence of different types of crime. Arson is an exception to this rule as it is always reported to the FBI.
Lastly, the program does not have the mechanism to collect all the pertinent data of a crime. The program collects data about the victims, the circumstances, and the offenders only for homicide cases. It will only collect data about weapons for murder, aggravated assault, and robbery cases. The program does not document weapons used in other crimes such as forcible rape. In addition, male rape is not considered rape and is classified under aggravated assault.
Shelden, R. G., Brown, W. B., Miller, K. S., & Fritzler, R. B. (2016). Crime and criminal justice in American society, 2nd Ed. Waveland Press.