This paper discusses organized crime and drug trafficking, as well as the legal rights of the convicted. It concerns the relationships between the offenses and explains why they are often correlated, as well as studies their definitions. It also concerns the right of access to the courts as one of the fundamental rights of those convicted of a crime. It explains its aspects and limitations and discusses its significance. The paper proves that this legal right is essential for both society and the legislative system.
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Definition and Correlation of the Terms
Organized crime and drug trafficking are correlated. However, it is necessary to distinguish between the concepts. The concept of organized crime can include two notions. The first one describes it as a set of organizations practicing illegal activities, implying that their members regularly engage in misconduct. The second notion refers to a set of criminal activities mostly performed for monetary gain, which include the provision of illegal goods (Paoli, 2017). According to Smith and Papachristos (2016), organized crime concerns interrelationships among criminal, legitimate, and personal networks. Paoli (2017) reports that organized crime activities often involve different forms of unlawful transfers, including the provision of illegal goods and services, embezzlement, robberies, extortions, counterfeiting and other cases of fraud. These criminal offenses should be carried out by more than two cooperating participants to be considered organized crime.
The term drug trafficking is often used to address the phases of the drug supply chain (Paoli, 2017). It indicates import and export activities including wholesale trade in illegal drugs. According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (2013), illicit trafficking involves all aspects of production, cultivation, and transportation of illegal drugs. It is notable that manufacture or equipment needed to comply the mentioned offenses is also subject to legal prosecution. Acquisition, transfer, and possession of illegal substances are also defined as drug trafficking (United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, 2013). It is notable that the trafficking of psychoactive drugs is currently one of the most common organized crime activities that form the world’s largest illegal market considering the revenues it creates. In 2014, the global market for illicit drugs was worth $426 to $652 billion (Paoli, 2017). The trafficked substances include cocaine, cannabis, and heroin.
Organized crime can be defined concerning profit-oriented illegal activities (Paoli, 2017). In this case, drug trafficking is directly related to them as it is a quintessential and lucrative criminal activity. However, if organized crime is discussed regarding large-scale hierarchical organizations, it is necessary to mention that its role in illegal drug markets has been limited (Paoli, 2017). The reason for it is that the business models organized crime follows are currently under pressure due to globalization and technological progress. However, it is necessary to point out that organized crime is still an acute problem that has to be discussed and solved.
Legal Rights of the Convicted
Organized crime and drug trafficking are illegal in the United States. According to the United States Sentencing Commission (2017), 95% of drug trafficking offenders are sentenced to imprisonment, with an average sentence of 70 months. It is necessary to mention that although convicted in those offenses forfeit some rights as the right to vote, they conceive their fundamental rights. The American Constitution protects the imprisoned individuals against the violation of their rights by authorities. Those rights include, but are not limited to, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments, to complain about prison conditions, to receive medical health treatment, and to be free from discrimination.
One of the most fundamental rights of the convicted is the right to use the courts, which will be widely discussed in this paper. According to the Bounds v. Smith (1977), offenders have the constitutional right of access to the courts. It means that prison authorities are required to assist the convicted both in the areas of post-conviction relief and institutional civil rights. They must provide individuals with the access to law libraries or help them receive help from lawyers (Bounds v. Smith, 1977). This right of convicted ensures that they are able to prepare meaningful legal papers, for example, work on their criminal case, habeas petitions or file claims. If imprisoned, individuals should be allowed to have law books or legal papers in their cells. Prison officials and the state cannot refuse to review the offender’s applications; they must submit them to federal court. The significance of this right will be addressed below.
It is necessary to mention that the right of access to the courts has a limitation addressed in Lewis v. Casey (1996). According to the case, this right is not considered violated when a prison lacks research facilities or legal assistance. Convicted individuals can only claim that they were denied their right of access to the courts if they show that they have been substantially harmed by the deficiencies (Lewis v. Casey, 1996). To report the injury, prisoners are required to prove that the prison authorities prevented them from being able to assert a claim. It means that even if the prison officials do not allow individuals to use the law library sources or do not provide them with legal help, it is not guaranteed that offenders can win a lawsuit about it. Usually, courts require a person to have a legitimate claim that they lost or were unable to bring as a result of prison authorities’ actions or the inadequacy of legal assistance. Notably, some courts only recognize injury that resulted in losing a suit or missing a filing deadline.
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It is essential to explain the nature and the significance of the right of access to the courts. Courts are designed to provide a platform for protection and defense of law rights and responsibilities of the individuals. They serve as conflict resolution institution, achieving their aim through addressing the opposing legal arguments of the parties involved. According to the courts’ purpose, litigants are required to have certain competencies to defend their constitutional rights effectively. These include the knowledge of the relevant law, including the precedents relevant to the particular legal proceeding, and the jurisdiction and the rules of procedure in the court. It is also crucial for the litigants to have a capacity to develop and present evidence to the court and have the understanding of the process of making a legal argument. It is clear that ordinary citizens are not trained to have these competencies and need to gain certain knowledge to make a defense. That is why the access to the courts is crucial for the convicted.
There have been several discussions on whether those involved in organized crime or drug trafficking should preserve their rights to access the courts. It is necessary to point out that no segments of society, even those committing offenses, can be fully deprived of their right to be protected by law. The ability to access the courts is a noncontroversial part of American constitutional law; it ensures that all individuals are equally allowed to bring a lawsuit or make a defense. It means that the government is obliged to provide services to individuals that require assistance. It is necessary to understand that convicted in organized crime and drug trafficking can use their right not only to defend themselves but also to report the violation of their rights or criminal offenses in prison. In this way, the access to the courts gives the individuals an opportunity to make a contribution to prison system improvement, as well as report the cases of deviating behavior of their inmates.
It is necessary to point out that sometimes individuals are wrongly condemned to imprisonment. In these cases, it is essential for them to have legal assistance ensured by the Constitution to make a defense. Even though drug trafficking involves many activities related to illegal substances and is clearly identified, it is impossible to underestimate the risks of wrong sentences. Organized crime represents a system of relationships between criminal groups; it means that false testimonies should be taken into consideration.
It is crucial to underline the principles behind the right of access to the courts. Law plays an essential role in the society, as it connects its institutions and maintains their work. Courts ensure that the laws are adequately enforced and that the executive branch of the government exercises its functions in consideration with the law. If all individuals are unable to access the courts, laws cannot be presented as relevant, trusted, and reasonable. The right of access to the courts ensures that all law institutions serve the purpose of making justice.
The right of access to the courts also provides individuals with the valuable information. On the one hand, ensures that they will be able to defend themselves if it is necessary but, on the other hand, they must meet their obligations to preserve their freedoms. Drug trafficking is a serious offense that affects not only the convicted but also the ones involved in the crime. It is necessary for the offenders to understand the legal regulations that consider their crimes. In this case, their right of access to the courts can provide them with an opportunity to realize how the offenses can affect their lives.
Drug trafficking is closely related to organized crime as it is one of its most common activities. Organized crime, however, is not limited to illegal substances, and can also concern other unlawful transfers, including the provision of illegal goods and services, embezzlement, robberies. The right of access to the courts is one of the fundamental rights the convicted have. It ensures that prison authorities are required to assist the offenders, providing them with the access to law libraries or helping them receive help from lawyers. This right is significant as it ensures that all individuals have equal abilities to make defense and file claims. Moreover, it gives the wrongly condemned individuals the right to protect their rights.
Paoli, L. (2017). What is the link between organized crime and drug trafficking? Rausch-Wiener Zeitschrift für Suchttherapie, 6(4), 181-189.
Smith, C. M., & Papachristos, A. V. (2016). Trust thy crooked neighbor: Multiplexity in Chicago organized crime networks. American Sociological Review, 81(4), 644-667.
United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (2013). The International Drug Control Conventions. Web.
United States Sentencing Commission (2017). Quick facts: Drug trafficking offenses. Web.
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996).
Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977).