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The last decade marks a time of significant changes in criminal justice. The changes have always revolved around the way in which United States of America handle different crimes from the arrest of offenders to the sentencing. There has been redefinition and reclassification of crimes in an effort to give fair justice to the offenders and the victims. Classification of crimes also gives a reduction in the severity some crimes would be treated. Additionally, there have been many changes to improve prison facilities and prison programs, in order to streamline sentences into correctional programs rather than punitive programs. This essay analyzes the trends that have been implemented in the criminal justice system over the past few years.
Significant Trends in Criminal Justice
Redefining Criminal Offences/Criminal Code
Many states in the US have invested heavily in classification of criminal offences. As aforementioned, classification of offences directly affects the lengths of sentences and the type of punishments that offenders receive. This is a positive move because, ultimately, an offender gets the best correctional program that nails particularly on the motive behind committing crime. Different sentencing bodies and reform criminal sentencing laws have contributed significantly to establishment of more targeted instructions.
In South Carolina, for example, Revised Criminal Code (SB 1154, 2010), brought substantial reforms to the definition of criminal codes. The code revised many offences including common law assault and certain mob offences. The body also increased the monetary values of property crimes by increasing threshold value of felony malicious injury to property from $5,000 to $10,000.
Enhancing Rehabilitative Treatment on Drug Users
The criminal justice system has changed its tactic on confronting drug abuse by implementing corrective measures. Away from the 1980s philosophy of “war on drugs,” states have changed immensely to incorporate programs that help substance users stop using drugs. This is a logical step by the system since failure to rehabilitate drug users leads to high recidivism rate. Most states have laws that mandate drug treatment in drug offender’s sentences. Some states have also invested in services to cater for both inpatient and outpatient treatments.
In Texas, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (2007), instructed huge investment of $241 million to expand substance abuse treatment and transitional programs in the criminal justice system. This investment has since seen the establishment of more facilities and effective transitional reentry programs.
Increased Transitional Supervision
Over the years, there has been increasing re-arrestment of offenders who break laws. On the same note, has been increasing revocation rate for those offenders on probation, parole, or other community services. Owing to this trend, most states have invested in programs to revert this trend in transitional shortcomings. This happens because it is important to transition offenders into the society and reduce the chances of the same people repeating the offences. Many states have passed bills to transitional agencies to redesign supervision programs, assess the risks and needs, give individualized management plans, provide adequate treatment, or any other effort that changes the transition anomalies.
In Illinois, Required Evidence-Based Practices (SB 1289, 2009), established Crime Reduction Act calling for evidence-based reforms in transitional supervision. The law assesses incarcerated and parole populations for a period up to five years, focusing on their risk, needs and assets.
Relaxation of Mandatory Minimum Laws
Since the number of prisoners has increased considerably over the years, many states now look at alternatives of reducing pressure on correctional facilities. Initially, legislators thought that the imposition of a long sentence period would discourage offences. However, statistics show that long sentences negatively cost the state. Therefore, the number of years in prison has been reduced in most offences.
In New Jersey, for example, legislators reduced the number of mandatory years of imprisonment for drug-abuse offenders. The same amendment encouraged the use of probation programs in order to correct the criminals.
Reforms in Juvenile Courts
Juvenile courts handle delinquent youth who commit crimes. Majority of youth who commit crimes fall within ages of school-going children. Another concern is that young people still have a long way in life; hence, pecking the need to transform these youths to productive adult citizens.
Many juvenile correction facilities have transformed looking at the problem of delinquency from the contributing factors, such as background of the child. Families have been hugely involved in reformation of delinquent children through therapies. Additionally, psychological therapies in sentence program help in giving children different perspective of life. All these efforts have been through positive reforms in criminal justice.
In my opinion, redefinition of crimes and criminal codes has greatly influenced the criminal justice system. This occurs because apart from defining the best sentences for offenders, the move also establishes the basisfor practical and effective correctional programs for the offenders.
Distinguish Between Due Process and Crime Control Models
Both the due process and crime Control Models are crime justice systems used to ensure correct justice is served. However, these two models display striking differences. While the due process focuses on protecting the rights of the accused persons and their rehabilitation, the crime control model focuses entirely on separating the criminals in an effort to protect the innocent. Crime control can be construed as enforcement of laws on the criminal in an effort to prosecute these offenders. In contrast, due process limits the scope of laws and protects the individual’s rights.
Characteristics of Due Process
Due process depends on the prevention of mistake of breaking an individual’sright. Secondly, due process aims at protecting the truly innocent persons because it assumes that the criminal justice system is error-prone. Therefore, according to the due process model, a person arrested is innocent until proven guilty.
Characteristics of Crime Control Model
This model focuses on the fact that crime prevention is very important. Therefore, the Crime Control model presumes that the criminal is guilty. Consequently, in order to protect the innocent in the community, it is essential to prosecute the offender even if some mistakes are made during the process.
Due process is the most prominent model in the criminal justice systems. Since democracy has increased and the rule of law is fundamental to every act of the government. The civil rights may be compromised in instances of riot and martial law, but most governments uphold civil rights immensely.
Four Cs in the Criminal Justice System (Citizens, Cops, Courts, and Corrections)
Citizen: are all the civil servants. This C group needs to respect the laws of the land. They also provide information necessary to the cops.
Cops: encompasses all the law enforcement agencies. Cops ensure that citizens follow the laws of the land.
Courts: represent the judicial system of the land. Courts guide all the branches of the land in interpretation of the law.
Correction: are facilities used to prepare lawbreaker before they go back to the community and continue with normal life.
All the Cs of the criminal justice system are equally important to the community. The responsibilities differ, but every branch has a vital role to play. If citizens break the law, the cops are stressed. Consequently, since the cops act within the laws, they will need the courts to help them in prosecuting the true offenders. Significantly, after the prosecution and an offender serves his sentence, it is important that the individual unlearns the criminal thoughts and be productive.
- Austin, Adrienne. Criminal Justice Trends: Key Legislative Changes in Sentencing Policy, 2001-2010. New York, NY: Vera Institute of Justice (2010).
- Lab, Steven P, Marian Rebecca Williams, Jefferson E Holcomb, Melissa W Burek, William R King and Michael E Buerger. Criminal Justice: The Essentials. OUP USA, 2013.