Over the years our criminal justice system has been in a declining spiral in a very expedient way and the problems associated with the reasons why are numerous, some huge and some small but in the end it will take many years and and a team effort to increase the recidivism rates as well as real moral, values and ethics, not only from those within law enforcement positions but those who are also the criminals. On top of this there are also those who are sheriffs or judges or the prosecutors who play an immediat and active role within this system. Some of these people are here to abide by the law while others use the law to gain their own favors and in turn become a violator of the law in one way or another and these violations range anywhere from discriminations of prisoners, to assualts to the more corrupt motions of embezzlement, theft of evidence, plantation of evidences, false search and seizurea and much more. We will touch upon some of the more prominent key issues regarding the faces of a failing criminal system and the results that come forth.
Issues within the criminal justice system are worldwide and are not for just a few selected and come in the many different colors and forms that describes all people in all circumstances. Those who act upon jealously, greed, trying to outdo another, those who are afraid and feel they have little to lose, those who think they will never get caught or are trying to make an impression and those who have limited tools to survive in the real world and of course the never ending circle of peer pressures, even as adults are the ones that we will find within the underlying issues of the criminal justice system. Couple these issues which we have only mentioned, to that of the foundation of the criminal system and the possibilities start becoming endless as to the answers of what is wrong with our system.
The foundation of our system has hinged upon innocent until proven guilty and once this may have worked but often times and with more prevalency this basic principle seldom works. More and more innocent people are convicted. If the media convicts a person and not the courts, that person becomes guilty in the majority of all eyes, to include the legal and justice system, with this, the premise of innocence is lost. There have been many wrongful convictions of those who are innocent and for some the question is asked “How can one who is innocent be guilty?” Much of this answer is dependant upon shoddy work of investigators, political reasonings that may force a conviction or in other words a scapegoat so in these simple terms our foundation not only fails but the real criminal gets away.
Another issue in which to look is mistaken identities and test/lab results. Where once the polygraphy was used to make determinations of truth, they are now not even allowed as a source of point for any investigative or questioning procedures. Polygraphs have been proven to be unreliable yet many people have been sent to jail over this unreliability when they are innocent. Before the onset of dna and automatic finger print testing there were several more who innocently became incarcerated over presumptions and false allegations. Once this science was brought forth many people were released with nothing more than an apology which indeed does not make up for all that may have been lost during incarceration.
What about those who are allegedly eye witnesses? For one, people lie all the time, sometimes freely, sometimes they are paid to. It is this people we can do almost nothing about unless we accidently find the proof that they have actually done this but what of those who are real eye witnesses to a crime yet the person they describe matches another whom in turn is innocent. It then will become the innocent who will generally become imprisoned. Often times eye sight fails us due to age and atmospheric conditions such as fog, rain, sun or even the night time. How do we attack this hurdle to assure that what they see is actually truth? What steps can be taken? With the onset of sciences what are we to do, be able to go back and watch a recording of what the eye sees and the brain defines? I don’t see this as a possibility. Maybe a standard yet specific set of questions can be formed to help assure that what these witnesses see is actually truth. It isn’t them who are at fault, this just happens to be one of those no fault instances that can destroy and there is so little that can be done in these cases.
Before dna typing and forensics we relied upon documents and eye witnesses which is what has sent many to jail, was proper protocol followed and if so how could we improve upon this considering both of these instances are still used in conjunction with new sciences? How can it be assured that these protocols are and will be followed precisely so as not to incarcerate those who are innocent and where do we find the checks and balances? Must we use video cameras in all phases of the investigative period?
In a letter from From Chicago Police Crime Lab to F.B.I. DNA Laboratory Division, 10 August, 1989 (Chapter 14. Science and the US criminal justice system:nd) the Chicago crime lab was asking for dna testing over a sexual assault case It seems as if protocol is being follwed here but what can be done to change it to help allay any false accusation? The perp is suspected simply because he did previous time in a facility for a similar crime but what if it wasn’t him this time? Including his name in this request to the FBI this becomes an automatic bias. One would think that this suspected person would then be exonerated but not in all cases. There is already a bias and if the public is screaming and there are political issues at the same time some one has to be put away and even at the expense of innocence, this person can very likely be the one who is convicted. Now this seems far reached but it happens due to bad protocols, biasness and the other negative factors of human greed and harried work as already mentioned. There is a lack of blind testing which is what is needed. Blind testing is simply the lack of revealing the suspects name or any other identifiers. Granted this isn’t a proof positive alternative to avoiding false prosecution but with standards and protocols it very well may help.
Another form of evidence gathering becomes canines. While most canines are inherently smart and can be and are trained in several different aspects to include cadaver, drug, bombs and general purpose sniffers the question remains as to how do we really know that the canine is actually finding a result that is true. If a deceased person is found and theoretically a piece of material that doesn’t seem to come from the deceased person is also found and then maybe a sniffer is brought in to sniff this material and later the sniffer barks at a person it is this that sets the bells and whistles of the invetigators off and of course the person is questioned and the piece of cloth becomes hard evidence when which in fact it very well maybe circumstantial but this alone could convict this person. I’m not saying that this person is innocent or guilty but what if there is a reason why this cloth was there and what if the suspect is innocent? With the facts just represented, would you assume guilty or innocence and is the assumption justified?
In a totally different realm of criminal investigation injustices are prejudices.Prejudices of color and race and then later added to; sexual; these have been large barriers to the truth over time though I do believe the wrongs done based upon these factors is slowly shifting. At one time during the days of white and black colors of separation, if there was a crime, it was always the blacks fault, if there was a sexual crime it was immediately related almost always to one who had committed a prior crime of similarity or that of a gay person. While it is believed that these instances are few and far inbetween they do happen.
To put the icing on the cake of our criminal justice system we have two flavors. One of workloads and budget cuts, the other of corruption. Both of these play a big part in the failings of what is supposed to work. Facing budget cuts is like an outward fear of who is going to be laid off, where do departments need to make financial differences in order to keep their offices running and how they go about it. In budget cut decisions where lay offs are imminent this then increases the workload of those who remain and with an increased workload comes extra hours, extra cases and slowly these people become more tired, frustrated and this eventually spills over into their work and shows a loack of consistency in how they would normally operate. Inefficiencies become more profound and tempers flare, the psychological outlooks of those who are to hold up even more are also held to a higher standard simply because they are there and are expected to perform much more than what they can readily achieve. Mistakes are made through these emotions and some of these are costly to not only those within law enforcement but also those who are innocent and become guilty. (The criminal justice system is in crisis:2008)
Corruption is a totally different hat and is a quiet undertow of rippling tides that can destroy, not just accidently incarcerate. Corruption can be anywhere from the officers on duty to Judges on the Bench to city councilmen, Senators and all inbetween. Where corruption is found there are huge issues which encompass all that is supposed to be good about a criminal system. The underlying reason behind corruption isn’t always understood and may never be known but it is a very relevant fact as to probably one of the bigger issues within the systems.
In one news print it is said that “On February 23, l999, the office of Oregon Attorney General Hardy Meyers gave an opinion filed in federal court that Oregonians do not have the right to protect themselves if they are the victims of criminal abuse, fraud or abuse of authority by civil servants and authorities.” (LEGISLATORS, AGENCIES AND JUDGES IMMUNE FROM PROSECUTION FOR VIOLATING CIVIL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS:1999) in yet another article obtained on line, a gentleman, if you could call him that admits to telling fellow attorney Nick Albrecht “that he went to law school to learn how to steal, the viper. He’s wiped out every partner he ever had, at least 10, and many tenants as well. He’s amassed a fortune of between $3- and 4-hundred million simply by being able to control the legal system. He has completely corrupted the state government.” (The Roger Weidner Story:2008). It is moments of these corruptions which have to make even the most guilty of persons double take. How can this kind of corruption exist and still have our criminal justice system still stand? It happens and it happens every day all over the world and there is always a willing bet that in every court room, in every police office or other political stationed office that there is corruption so as to gain control over something that isn’t even their’s to control.
The culmination of all these factors become keys of contribution as to what is happening and what has happened within our justice system. Our criminal justice system, when they incarcerate those who are innocent and leave those who corrupt and do not bother with certain protocols is then to blame for the fall, not the mistakened rise, of the system. It is in all these factors that our systems are failing and if we could find a sure fire way to obliterate or change these key issues then and only then might we be able to return to a system as it was meant to be. One of honesty, integrity and one that stands for real law and real punishments and real work.
LIST OF REFERENCES
American Bar Association. COMBATING CORRUPTION IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. January, 2007. http://www.abanet.org/rol/publications/asia_raca_garrett_zimmon_combating.pdf
Chapter 14. Science and the US criminal justice system http://www.utexas.edu/courses/bio301d/Topics/Criminal%20Justice%20System/Crisis%20in%20the%20CJS.htm
Dale Parent. US Department of Justice. Published: January 1997. http://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/161839.txt
Dr. B. Cayenne Bird. Corrupt Criminal Justice System Contributes to Over-Crowded Prisons. October 2006. http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/15182
Harry Fletcher. Oct 2008. The criminal justice system is in crisis. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/oct/07/prisonsandprobation.justice
Marc Mauer . The Crisis of the Young African American Male and the Criminal Justice System.http://www.sentencingproject.org/Admin/Documents/publications/rd_crisisoftheyoung.pdf
Nina Mehlhaf, KTVZ.COM. Bend courtroom chaos erupts over property case. http://www.ktvz.com/Global/story.asp?s=9276175
State of Texas v. Lakeith Amir-Sharif. American Injustice- Lies, Corruption, Cover-up’s Dallas, Texas Courts March 14th. http://livesteez.com/videos/watch/dejpMsG
The Roger Weidner Story. June 2008. http://www.tulanelink.com/stories/weidner_02a.htm
Wilbur and Pamela Gaston. A Voice For Children. March 14, 1999. LEGISLATORS, AGENCIES AND JUDGES IMMUNE FROM PROSECUTION FOR VIOLATING CIVIL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS.) http://web.archive.org/web/20061104043123/www.avoiceforchildren.com/documents/corrupt/officials/officials_immune.htm
Bill Kurtis, , The Death Penalty on Trial: Crisis in American Justice. PublicAffairs
David Hirschel ,Criminal Justice in England and the United States. Praeger Publishers.
Samuel Walker, Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990. Oxford University Press.