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Criminal Justice Policy and Constitutional Protections

Criminal Justice Policies and Constitutional Protections

The most important task of the criminal justice system is to avoid crimes and reduce their number. Naturally, in this issue the authorities rely on the police and the court, both of which more often use “sticks” instead of “carrots”. In some cases, the desire to reduce crime can be even stronger that the respect to human rights established by the Constitution. Is this system right, or should some policies be reviewed?

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A “Stick” or a “Carrot”?

Peters claims (2007) that the most important thing is to understand the causes of the crime. So, to reduce the number of offenses and incarcerations, the authorities should fight with the criminal behavior from the very beginning. What is the best way to do this? Is it better to threaten people or to encourage the law-abidance in other ways? According to Walker (2006), “the American criminal justice system relies entirely too heavily on policies and programs designed to threaten people into law-abiding behavior” (p. 430). However, so severe methods not always are necessary.

The following paragraph is about the policy that can be a good example of a “stick”. As statistics shows, it has never been entirely supported by the people. Moreover, it can also be considered as unconstitutional one.

The Stop-and-Frisk Policy

The Stop-and-Frisk policy or the Stop-and-Frisk program has been brought in by the New York City Police Department. It empowers the police to stop a person, just on the street, temporarily detain them and commit a quick search. It is enough for a policeman to suspect that a person is dangerous or carries a weapon. Moreover, the police have a right to do this without any explanation or identifying a crime that they think has been or is going to be committed.

Can Stop-and-Frisk Policy be Considered as Unreasonable Searches and Seizures?

On the face of it, it could seem that the Stop-and-Frisk policy comes in conflict with the Fourth Amendment (n.d.), specifically the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. However, during the proceeding of Terry v. Ohio case (n.d.), the United States Supreme Court decided that the Fourth Amendment was not violated, if the police stopped a person because of a reasonable suspicion that they could be dangerous or armed.

The conflict with the Constitution

However, the Stop-and-Frisk policy is still sometimes considered to be unconstitutional. First of all, the police suspicions are not always reasonable. Just the opposite, as statistics shows, the majority of people the police stop and frisk are innocent. Moreover, nine times out of ten they are African-American and Latino. For example, in the first part of 2015, 82% of stopped New Yorkers were innocent, and only 12% of stopped were white (Stop-and-Frisk Data n.d.). Considering this fact, a lot of people believe that the policy violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees the “the equal protection of the laws” (14th Amendment n.d., para. 2).

The obvious way to solve this problem is to reduce the number of stopped individuals and strictly regulate the whole process. The police should pay attention only to those who are reasonably suspected since the percentage of innocent who have been stopped is still high. Finally, we should also remember that a “stick” is not always the best way to encourage people, especially when talking about the innocent ones.

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14th Amendment. (n.d.). Web.

Fourth Amendment. (n.d.). Web.

Peters, B. G. (2007). American Public Policy: Promise and Performance (7th ed.). Washington, D.C: CQ Press.

Stop-and-Frisk Data. (n.d.). Web.

Terry v. Ohio. (n.d.). Web.

Walker, S. (2006). Too Many Sticks, Not Enough Carrots: Limits and New Opportunities in American Crime Policy. The University of St. Thomas Law Journal, 3(3), 430-461.

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