Why Do We Need a Criminal Justice System?
Introduction It is not always clear why a criminal justice system is needed or indeed what it contributes to the functioning of a society. In the discussion that will follow, it will be argued that there are essentially four reasons why we do need to have a criminal justice system. First, it upholds the freedoms of individuals and maintenance of public order. Second, a criminal justice system instils fear in people and thus deterring illegal activities.
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Third, a good justice system provides rehabilitation and reform to criminals. Fourth, it educates society on processes conducted at every level of law and order, therefore ensuring that all stages of the criminal justice system connect with each other without fear or favour. It will be demonstrated, in this paper, that to achieve a just and equitable society, a robust and accountable criminal justice system is required. Discussion
The first argument for the necessity of a criminal justice system is the sustainment of public order and the preservation of individuals’ freedoms. This protection ensures the freedom of people which would otherwise live in fear and consequently have their liberties greatly curtailed (Daly, Israel & Goldsmith, 2006). Most of what is striven for by the criminal justice system, in a liberal-democratic society, includes equity, fairness and appropriateness in everyday activities of the individual (Bryett, Caswell & Shaw, 1993).
Examples through history show that a society without a criminal justice system would become anarchic and ungovernable as there would be no central law and order structure and rule of law to control citizens, as commoners and leaders alike, who commit crimes, would not be answerable to any system (Smith & Natalier, 2005). Consequently without a functional criminal justice system, common order and the very freedoms that most modern societies experience would not and could not be upheld.
The second argument is that the criminal justice system, with it’s frequently drawn out and expensive legal procedures and the threat of incarceration, for serious crimes, instils much fear in most people, criminals and law-abiding citizens alike. White and Perrone (2010) state that the concept of deterrence is known as a rightful purpose of sentencing. Harsh sentencing is likely to dissuade a large number of citizens to partake in illegal acts due to the intolerance by most criminal justice systems of such activities and ensuing incarceration (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2010).
Therefore the fear of going to jail because one was found guilty of committing a crime is a strong deterrent. Daly et al. (2006) state that there are effectively two types of deterrence. The first is the deterrence of the individual (also known as specific or special deterrence) which it’s primary role is to ‘dissuade or deter an offender from committing a crime in the future’. This is done by imposing harsh penalties to discourage the criminal in committing another crime in the future.
The second method is general deterrence, which is to ‘dissuade or deter members of the broader community from committing a crime in the future’. This is to prevent both the individual and others from committing similar crimes by imposing tough penalties. The third argument is that the criminal justice system is there to reform and rehabilitate criminals by the delivery of offender rehabilitation programs. Most prisons incorporate a tertiary education system, vocational courses and religious/spiritual programs, in order to assist to reform and rehabilitate (Zalman, 2006).
These initiatives have been maintained due to overwhelming evidence demonstrating that such programs have a greater outcome in reducing recidivism than incarceration alone and there is general acceptance that such initiatives will aid to decrease re-offending and improve community safety (Heseltine, Day & Sarre, 2009). The alternative view is held by Robinson & Williams, (2009) which entails that when prisoners are secluded in there cells, it enables them to reflect over their crimes which in most cases is the most important step to reforming them before entering society.
However, it has been demonstrated that incarceration of prisoners solely does not rehabilitate or reform them and indeed may have unintended consequences to the contrary (Haney, 2008). The fourth argument in favour of the criminal justice system is that it strives to facilitate a better understanding, for citizens, on how decisions are made at each stage while an investigation into a crime and trial proceedings are in progress. It is important that citizens understand the criminal law and order process so they can contribute effectively as witnesses and victims of crime which is fundamental to decisions made about rosecutorial screening and police investigation into a crime (Daly, K. et al, 2006). It is also found that it is crucial that the processes that make up the criminal justice system are followed, to eliminate the likelihood of serious distortions in a criminal case. For instance, although matters concerning sentencing, criminal law and procedures are separate to each other, it becomes important for the citizen to identify them and their functions so essential values in each of these areas are well known and therefore held accountable by society (Smith & Natalier, 2005, p. 5). This knowledge will facilitate society to ascertain if each department is allowed to operate independently but in line with the laid down policies, hence the law being applied amicably (Bryett et al, 1993). Furthermore, Smith and Natalier, 2005 (p. 63) state that to avoid misleading results, society should establish a proper criminal justice system governed by policies and principles that are reasonably simple to understand by the layperson. Conclusion
Previous arguments and examples in this paper have proven that society needs a criminal justice system to protect the individual, deter crime, reform the criminal and educate society of it’s processes and responsibility. The absence of a criminal justice system, in any society would cause anarchy and chaos, as it would place much power on individuals that may take advantage of those that are vulnerable. This is why we need a criminal justice system. References: Bryett, K. , Craswell, E. , Harrison, A. & Shaw, J. (1993). An Introduction to Policing: Vol. : Criminal Justice in Australia. Sydney: Butterworths. Daly, K. , Israel, M. & Goldsmith, A. (2006). Aims of the Criminal Justice System, Crime and Justice: A Guide to Criminology, 3rd ed. , Lawbook Co, Sydney, pp. 265-281. Equality and Human Rights Commission, (2010). Criminal Justice System. Retrieved from Haney, C. (2008). Prison: Harmful Consequences and Dysfunctional Reactions. Testimony of Professor Craig Haney. Retrieved from http://www. prisoncommission. org/statements/haney_craig. pdf Heseltine, K. , Day, A. & Sarre, R. (2009). Prison-based correctional offender