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Discussion of Criminal Justice

Criminological Theory

Punishment as a Deterrent to Crime

There has been a dramatic increase in the incarceration rates of state and federal. The results are harsher sentencing policies and more punitive laws leading to over 2.3 million fugitives in national jails and prisons. The United States has the leading incarceration rates worldwide. Naturally, the criminal justice system provokes some deterrent effects on citizens. However, it is essential to establish whether increased sanctions or chances of being apprehended increase the deterrence effect. Criminologists have acknowledged that the increased certainty of punishment provides a deterrence effect more than the severity of the punishment. For instance, if there is an increase in the frequency and number of patrols along a particular highway on weekends and holidays, there would be a reduced number of drunk drivers as they are certain of being caught. However, despite the severe punishment imposed on drunk drivers, the offence would be experienced more without the certainty of being arrested.

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The Heat Hypothesis

The culture or subculture that one originates from can be viewed as a cause of crime. Enculturation is a critical aspect in the establishment and development of criminal behavior. For instance, the southern part of the United States has faced increased rates of violent crime reports, especially lethal violence. This trend has been linked to the uncomfortably warm temperatures in the region. Criminologists have labelled the behavior as the heat hypothesis. They tend to believe that communities living in uncomfortably warm conditions have increased rates of criminal activities. They argue that when exposed to high temperatures, human beings become very simplistic and easily agitated. This makes people have more negative thoughts increasing their probability of committing a crime. However, this is not the trend across all cultures living in high temperatures globally.

Constitutional History

The Gun Control Policy

The constitution forms a legal anchorage on the ownership and possession of guns and firearms in the US. However, there is no clear guideline on how firearms should be sold, possessed or received. The law does not provide a strict guideline on conducting a background check on buyers of firearms. This, in turn, provides the potential for illegal possession by prohibited people. In addition, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) gives the authority to sell firearms to all US citizens. They can do so in their homes, at a gun exhibition, in an open market or online. It is also possible to buy a firearm on behalf of an absentee part as a gift. The third party is required to follow the federal laws on firearms. This loophole may give room for the possession of firearms by illegal persons. For instance, children under 18 years can own firearms presented to them by their parents.

Police Perjury

Police have been caught center-stage of cases involving search and seizure. When the victim of the seizure poses a threat to police officers, the officer is likely to create false statements about the citizen. Academics and researchers record that numerous police officers involved in such cases have been documented giving false witnesses while under oath. Proving police perjury is a challenging assignment as the officers have an informal ruling which prohibits one to testify against their partner. Often, police provide false information to cover up for activities such as illegal seizures. A significant population of victims of police perjury belong to the minority groups in America. It is believed that such cases arise as a result of racism in the country. The most effective way to get rid of police perjury is they must eliminate the exclusionary rule among police officers.

Juvenile Justice

Youth Gangs in School

Youth gangs and gang activities in American schools has been a subject of discussion for a long time. These activities were prevalent during the 1970s and 1980s. Fortunately, the data of gang activities in schools have been declining since 1990. Despite the notable decrease, this issue has been of significant concern to policymakers and school administrators. The presence of gang activities is evident through increased levels of victimization and violence, drug sale and substance abuse among students. To address victimization and violence, school officials have adopted several measures such as the employment of security guards, dress codes, and metal detectors. Researchers in the field have identified that gang members in schools rarely engage in criminal activities such as serious violence. In this regard, they are less likely to draw attention from the police or the public. Rather, students engaged in gang activities like hanging out in groups performing peer-related activities such as gaming, drinking, and smoking among others.

Mental Health and Juvenile Justice

A significant number of minors contained in the juvenile court system have mental health conditions. The juvenile system points that an average of 70% of the youths reported to the system suffer from either mental or behavioral disorders. Notably, the level at which the victims are assessed is critical in establishing an underlying condition. This accrues to the fact that the severity of the disorders increases with prolonged stay in the juvenile system. Research has recognized that there is a complex relationship between the juvenile system and mental health disorders. They established that some externalizing behaviors, such as sociopathy, conduct disorders, and defiance and substance abuse elevate the chances of violence, victimization and delinquency. Moreover, exposure to violence and traumatic experiences may result in involvement in juvenile cases. There is a positive correlation between traumatic experiences and anxiety, conduct disorders, depression, antisocial behavior and aggression.

Legal Theory

Retributive Justice

According to this theory, an offender should be exposed to the same level of punishment as the severity of the crime committed. The origin of this theory is that when one commits a crime, they violate the rights of others in the community. Hence, there was the need to compensate the victims of crime for the intended and unintended harm they received. To revenge their harm, policies were enacted on the level of punishment an offender should receive according to the severity of the harm caused.

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The retributive justice theory focuses on a guilty act and a guilty state of mind in the offender before imposing the laid out punishment on them. A person cannot be punished for an offence they have not been proven guilty of. The retributive justice forbids the punishment of the insane or intellectually handicapped people as they are believed to commit a crime without the right state of mind. A crime committed accidentally or by a child is not subjected to the same punishment as adults who intended to commit the crime. Offenders who commit a crime due to a lack of other courses of action, for example, when in danger, should not be punished.


Stop and Frisk

The police have been provided with the authority to stop and briefly frisk a suspect. The constitution requires the police officers to have a good reason to have a suspicion that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. Frisking a suspect means giving a pat on the outer clothing of a suspect while searching for any ranger things that may cause danger to them and others. A stop and frisk operation is supposed to be conducted within a reasonable time frame. Exceeding this time frame violates the rights of the victim and is rendered unlawful. Therefore, conduction of an activity that would prolong this period such as sniff search is prohibited by the constitution under the Fourth Amendment. Any evidence that the police may find under the frisk operation is required to be presented in a Court of law.

Necessary Force

On numerous occasions, police officers have been accused of using excessive force when handling common citizens. These have led to serious injuries on the victims resulting in social movements, especially on the minority groups. Police officers must uphold the law while protecting a person’s constitutional rights. However, mishandling of a suspect when arresting or frisking them is violating their rights. Several cases of police brutality have resulted in the death of the victims which leads to social unrest. Acknowledging the level of danger that police officers are exposed to in their line of duty, may increase the chances of police fearfully using excessive force. Police must have a second thought on their amount of force when dealing with a culprit.

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