Criminal Justice System Problems and Solutions

A society that has a just system will require that criminals will be punished for their crimes before being allowed to reenter society. Unfortunately, in many instances, the punishment does not fit the crime, and when it actually does, so many are denied the tools to effectively become productive citizens after they have paid their debt to society. Increasingly this has become the standard in the US where roadblocks to redemption are created by the very system that seeks to rehabilitate. 

So much reform is needed.  The US has less than five percent of the world’s population, and yet, holds close to twenty five percent of the prison population worldwide. Criminal justice in the US has a number of areas of smart reform that could help thousands of people recapture their lives from lost economic opportunities and gain a renewed outlook on life.

What are some problems in criminal justice system?

  1. Drug Use and the Crime Cycle

Between fifty and eighty percent of people test positive for drugs when arrested. Leading to a vicious cycle of criminal acts and drug use going hand in hand.

  • Youth in the Criminal Justice System

How juvenile offenders are viewed needs to be examined. Are they “big” felony arrests or misdemeanors? Focus on restorative justice or community safety? Are they mutually exclusive?

  • High Incarceration Rate

Recent available data, shows two million people were incarcerated for crimes in the US and almost seven million under supervision. Why this is an issue affecting more than the accused but its impacts on those in and out of communities where the crimes took place.

  • Violence Against Women

Around 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by a close partner each year, with stalking even more common than previously thought, meaning we need to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system’s response to these crimes.

  • “Three Strikes” Legislation

An increased amount  of states use this system which states that if someone is arrested and convicted three times they’re “out.”Like some sort of game played with people’s lives.  We need to consider alternate sentencing and prevention paradigms as one size does not fit all.

POLICY SOLUTION: Abolish or curb Three Strikes laws, limit “pay to pay” and “pay to stay” fees, bring back parole system, and reduce reliance on mandatory minimum sentencing.

  • The state should overturn current Three Strikes law. Short of that, the state should overturn life sentences for those that have convictions on crimes that are no longer considered “strikes.” 
    • Reduce the state’s fiscal reliance on very low-income defendants and their families to pay for the criminal justice system
    • Extend the same consumer and worker protections to people behind prison walls that are available to people outside.
  • Law enforcement and policing

Sending armed officers in response to 911 calls often leads to horrible outcomes and situations, resulting in many people from minority groups or addicts not making calls to emergency services because they are scared that the responders will be police officers. Reforming the system to ensure the correct responders are sent to handle each specific call, especially with drug and alcohol-related and psychological distress situations is imperative.

  • The 1994 Crime Bill

The 1994 Crime Bill increased the number and length of incarcerations with even more funding going into building jails and prisons. Also, the possibility of early release was reduced. These measures increased the amount of taxpayers’ money invested in enforcement and led to a disproportionate number of incarcerations among African-American men. Its effect on public safety was minimal.

  • Mandatory minimum sentencing

Mandatory minimum sentencing is the minimum sentence a court can give for a specific crime, even if there are unique circumstances. Unfortunately, even though more than half of federal inmates are incarcerated under these mandatory provisions, there is no correlated increase in public safety.

  • Poverty continues inhibiting prevention and recidivism

Some of the issues contributing to the high number of incarcerations include drug use and mental health. The money set aside for policing and detentions could be better spent on community prevention and treatment programs. 

Recidivism can also be reduced if the federal Pell Grants were restored to inmates. These grants allowed federal education support and financial aid to help rehabilitate those incarcerated and giving them a second chance.

Additionally, the system requiring people to pay cash bail adds to the problem. It is estimated that 3 out of 5 people in jail have not been convicted for a crime, but are too poor to meet the bail set by the court.

  • Handling of juveniles

Juveniles are often tried as adults in the criminal justice system, and they are not given parole eligibility. Also, policing of neighborhoods and schools often criminalizes minor offenses and contributes to unnecessary violence. This leads to a stigma or psychological trauma that can lead to increased criminal activities.

What are the 3 goals of criminal justice system?

Some goals of the modern criminal justice system include crime prevention, protecting the community, victim support, holding perps responsible for crimes committed, and helping offenders return to society as law-abiding citizens.

How can we improve criminal justice?

  1. Criminal Justice Policy Solutions
  2. Promote Community Safety through Alternatives to Incarceration
  3. Create Fair and Effective Policing Practices
  4. Promote Justice in Pre-Trial Services & Practices
  5. Enhance Prosecutorial Integrity
  6. Ensure Fair Trials and Quality Indigent Defense
  7. Encourage Equitable Sentencing

How can we improve police system?

Solutions to Create Fair and Effective Policing Practices

1) Create National Use of Force Guidelines

2) Hold Police Departments Responsible for Negligence

3) Screen for Implicit Bias and Aggression

4) Focus on Collaborative Approaches to Policing

5) Encourage Consistent Monitoring and Screening

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