The criminal justice system encapsulates practices used to uphold social control by impeding the perpetration of various transgressions. The system works by imposing sanctions to those who digress from the state laws and regulations. The criminal justice system in the United States incorporates law enforcement, the courts and corrections. Each of the three components is integral in the effective functioning of the criminal justice system as a whole. Similarly, the use of force in criminal justice involves using physical restraint to gain control of an unruly person or predicament. The paper will demystify the Unites States criminal justice and offer recommendations on how to improve it. It will also touch on the use of force in criminal justice.
Criminal Justice in United States
The criminal justice in United States is equipped to process a case from inception to punishment. In this regard, it cannot be represented by a single component or an all-encompassing institution. Its diversified nature makes it easy to deal with cases that are national at scope such as treason, espionage as well as assassination of dignitaries. The inception of a case begins when law enforcement officials investigate a certain crime in the quest of gathering evidence to be used against the offender. The court system then weighs the evidence through the corresponding legal procedures to determine whether the offender is guilty or innocent. In the event that an offender is found guilty, the correction system will either deploy incarceration or probation to punish their behavior.
Law enforcement is the first component of criminal justice system and encapsulates sheriffs, deputies and patrol officers. Their duties revolve around upholding the law and ensuring the public conform to the stipulated guidelines. Their scope of work requires them to be knowledgeable on the rights of the offenders. Law enforcement begins when the enforcers detect a crime by catching the perpetrator or receiving reports from a victim or witness. The law enforcers will then verify the information availed to them by carrying out thorough investigations. Moreover, the enforcers can arrest the suspect, complete police arrest reports or conduct police procedures.
The Court System
This is where adjudication takes place. The key individuals in this component include judges, prosecutors and jury members. These individuals ensure the rights of an individual are not violated thus ensuring a fair trial. The final decision issued by judges or juries is arrived at by conforming to guidelines established by the federal statutes. Similarly, the ability of a court to prosecute a case is a function of different restrictions such as the right to a jury trial and the right to counsel. The system conforms to a protocol organized from pre-trial services, arraignment, trial, sentencing and death penalty.
However, the last two depend on the court decision which is arrived at after the trial. Similarly, the range of sentences imposed can include custodian sentence, community discharge, fine, conditional discharge and custodian sentence. The defendant also has a right to be represented by either an attorney or a court appointed counsel. A case can also be heard at the Supreme Court which is the pinnacle of the federal court system. The court hears few cases because a Supreme Court case has to work its way up through the lower tiers of a court system.
This is the last component of the criminal justice system and ensures the convicted offenders serve their sentence. The punishment at a corrections system involves probation, incarceration or both. The major actors are correction officers, parole officers and probation officers. The correction officers supervise inmates while the probation officers supervise adult as well as juvenile offenders. The role of the parole officers is to look after individuals released from prison on parole to ensure they conform to the stipulated terms. The American criminal justice system uses correction as a replacement from penology which was considered harsh. The ulterior objective of the correction component is to rehabilitate crime offenders before allowing them to the public as free individuals.
Improving the Criminal Justice System in United States
Even though the criminal justice is effective in reducing the crime levels and punishing the offenders, it exhibits some inherent shortfalls that compromise its efficiency. For instance, the justice system has been subject to countless delays especially when trials and sentences are put off for months or years. For this reason, the criminal justice system is in dire need of a reform which can only occur when people speak with unified conviction. Individuals should speak out about any injustices or discrimination premised on class or skin colour. Policy makers are likely to respond to specific concerns when people speak in large numbers.
The criminal justice system can also be improved through the reduction of violence in prison. This can be achieved through the improvement of prison accountability as well as leadership. In fact, cases of sexual assault and other violent attacks in prison have been on the rise thus compromising the safety of those serving prison sentences. This inculcates a different perception of prison as one of the components of the justice system. In this respect, administrators should be held accountable for any violent attacks. This will be effective in improving the system.
Passing laws that reduce overly harsh sentences can also be effective in improving the system. Most people serve life-sentences for non-violent drug offences or other crimes which are not as serious. Such sentences are unnecessary and punitive because they heavily weigh on people of color and those of lower social status. The system can also be improved by lessening the powers of prosecutors. This is attributable to the fact that they threaten serious charges thus forcing people to plead guilty. As a result, innocent people end up pleading guilty to avoid being charged with more serious crimes. Moreover, there are predicaments where police and prosecutors perpetrate misconduct deliberately or accidentally and end up landing innocent people in jail. An example is tampering with evidence that would render the accused innocent. Others fabricate the evidence to ensure the ruling does not work in favour of the accused. This needs to change by holding the involved parties liable.
The vast majority of individuals in prisons are serving drug sentences. However, the incarceration does not resolve the drug problem because law enforcers are always arresting more people for similar charges. For this reason, the drugs issues should be made a public health problem as opposed to criminal justice problem. The government should lay emphasis on rehabilitation centres as well as revitalization programs as opposed to incarceration.
Police Use of Force
The use of force by law enforcers is permitted in the United States criminal justice system. It involves the use of physical restraint by a member of law enforcement agency. However, force is only permitted in specific circumstances such as self-defence or in defence of another individual. Similarly, the amount of force used should be appropriate in mitigating an incident, making an arrest or protecting others from harm. Law enforcers have been trained to use a certain level of force depending on the threat or resistance they are presented with. For instance, when a suspect is resisting arrest, an officer can use pepper spray to overcome that resistance. However, beating up such a suspect would be considered as excessive force. Shooting that person amounts to the use of deadly force.
The only occurrence when a law enforcer can use deadly force is when faced with a threat of death or great bodily injury. The job description of law enforcers can be difficult thus explaining why they have certain protection to enable them execute their duties efficiently. Therefore, the enforcers are permitted to use force only to some extent. However, there are laws and regulations that protect citizens from officers who abuse their power by using excessive force. In this regard, the claims on excessive force are brought under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. However, when reporting a case of the use of excessive force, the court is most interested in the circumstances surrounding the arrest.
The court also pays attention to the severity of the crime and whether the suspect posed a threat to the law enforcers. While investigating whether an officer used excessive force, the court will determine whether the officer’s intervention was legal and whether they are qualified and competent. The court also determines whether the use of force commensurate the person’s resistance. If the court proves that the enforcers used excessive force, the victim will be entitled to civil rights damages, monetary compensation or both.
The criminal justice system in United States incorporates the coordinated functioning of distinct parts. The ulterior objective is decompensating the victims and making offenders pay for their criminal acts. However, the system can be improved through the reduction of harsh sentences and improvement of prison accountability. Law enforcers ought to exhibit the ability to protect and serve the community without the use of excessive amount of force as it should be the last option. An officer uses force with an objective of regaining control while protecting themselves and the victim. The law also protects citizens from officers who cross the line and become excessively forceful.