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Challenges Facing the Criminal Justice System (Essay Sample)


Challenges Facing the Criminal Justice System


Challenges Facing the Criminal Justice System
Michael Connolly
Challenges Facing the Criminal Justice System
The law can be referred to as social equalizer. The criminal justice system is a far-reaching and large segment which ensures laws are followed to the letter. This makes citizens to remain loyal to the state. It is the best method of punishing law breakers, and realizing the innocent people. Currently, the criminal justice system is facing challenges from conviction to prosecution of criminals. The defendant is ineffectively presented. There is overcrowding, over loaded prosecutors, unfeasible caseloads with public defenders and much more. These challenges make enormous cases to be reported without convictions or arrestors. Prosecutors fail to concentrate on serious crimes. Lawmakers, attorneys and intellectuals have identified these challenges which require action, discussion and change (Weinstein, 2004). The challenges have put extreme pressure in the criminal justice system, causing misuse of resources, manpower and time.
An indigent defendant is encouraged to waive his right to the counsel. These impecunious defendants are mostly not able to secure counsel at all. Lack of counsel has proved to be a serious obstacle in the criminal justice system. Constitutionally, misdemeanour defendants have the right to a counsel. However, most of the jail inmates who were alleged with misdemeanours are not assisted by the counsel. Jurisdictions have failed to fulfill their duty of ensuring misdemeanour defendants are aware of the counsel and their rights to it.
Unfortunately, indigent defendants in most jurisdictions do not give informed approval to the waiver of the counsel. Defendants are often given a form with the rights and warnings of the counsel listed. They are expected to sign the form immediately without confirming whether they have understood or not. They are not given a chance to inquire from the officer in charge. Defendants are encouraged to waive their right to the counsel, so that their offense can take place faster. Judges tell defendants that they are free to wait for the counsel, which will take unknown time to respond. This leaves the defendant with the option of proceeding without counsel. Impeded court proceedings are more daunting for the poor defendants in the society. This is because they have to make alternating arrangements for transportation, off-duty and child care. Defendants in custody prefer proceeding without the counsel, as delaying judgment will make live longer in jail, compared to when they plead guilty immediately and are sentenced. This is why most defendants prefer proceeding without help of the counsel (Barack, 2009).
Defendants are advised to communicate with the prosecutors directly. This is against the principles and ethics of courts. Court staff instructs defendants to consult prosecutors regarding plea bargaining. This is done before defendants get an opportunity to request help from the counsel. The absence of counsel has unexpected repercussions. Misdemeanour conviction is not only devastating for the family, but also the defendant. Imprisonment affects the defendant’s work, health, reputation and financial status at large (Harcourt, 2001). In fact, misdemeanour’s conviction may result to loss of employment, deportation, denial of professional license, disqualification of loans, suspension from school and lack of public housing.
Public defenders have staggering caseloads which reduce their ability of representing their clients effectively. Even when defendants secure counsel, they are not represented as per the law. Public defenders have unmanageable caseloads, which force them divide resources, time and attention among the cases. Therefore, most defendants are given little or no attention at all. The increase in misdemeanours prosecution has resulted to over-largely cases across the criminal justice system. Several organizations have passed or published caseload standards (Nelesen, 2005). However, most jurisdictions do not meet these standards, whether quantitative or qualitative in nature. It is internationally recommended that defense attorney and public prosecutors should handle maximum of four hundred misdemeanours per year. Clients have rights to be represented competently. Competent representation requires the lawyer to have skills, legal knowledge, and thoroughness and prepare reasonably for the case.
Regrettably, it is currently difficult for public prosecutors and defense lawyers to represent their clients adequately due to misdemeanour caseloads in the system. In fact, misdemeanour attorneys handle more than one thousand cases per year. This makes it impossible for them to prepare thoroughly for the cases. A lawyer is expected to interview the client, read arresters report, consult the prosecutor, write memoranda and motions, and attend all court hearings without failure. This becomes impossible considering the time allocated to every case. Sometimes it goes to extreme ends where each case is allocated in average of ten minutes, which is practically impossible. The lawyers are entitled to vacation, holidays, sick leaves and all other work off days. This worsens the situation as some cases are not given a single minute of concentration.
Ethically, a lawyer should not accept more clients, if he has workload, which might prevent him from providing diligent and competent representation to the present clients. In case the court system is responsible for appointing clients, it is the responsibility of the lawyer to request for a halt. Whenever a lawyer feels he is not providing diligent and competent representation to the client, he should withdraw from the case. Unfortunately, this does not happen practically in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors contest the motion irrespective of the excessive caseloads (Barack, 2009).
Apart from the large caseloads, public defenders are paid lowly. More to this, there are inadequate resources in the public defender office because of reduction of budget in this sector. All these predicaments increase the probability of lawyers’ exhaustion. As a result of several attorney burnouts, dedicated and well-trained public defenders depart. In fact, lawyers receive smaller salaries than other prosecution officers. This calls for equality between the prosecution and defense counsel for better results.
Attorneys are continuously departing from officers. The voluntary departure is facilitated by the reduction of budget. The budget cuts distress misdemeanour defense greatly. Prosecution officers get as much as fifty percent higher than public defenders. Consequently, public defenders opt for private practice which is better than the government office. They are replaced with new employees from school, leaving the field without experienced personnel, which is doing harm to the public (Weinstein, 2004).
Re-characterization of ordinance-violation, traffic offenses and non-violent misdemeanours can reduce caseloads. As a result, serious offences will be taken successfully. Most people go to court for misdemeanour offenses. The exact number of misdemeanour cases reported per year is unknown, because of the difference in data collection methods in each state. However, it is clear that misdemeanour cases are the highest in all nations. This calls for re-characterization of misdemeanours in general. There is a need for change in the local, federal and state governments. The criminal justice system should implement a new system of remedies and civil fines to address less serious offenses which are harmful to the society. This will increase effectiveness and efficiency in this sector.
Historically, most undesirable behavior was punishable by taking remedial measures and fines. This is what has currently been criminalized into misdemeanour cases. This includes driving with an expired license, riding on the wrong side, jumping turnstiles, violating games laws and walking set free pets. Common mistakes like excessive noise, sanitary nuisances, open air dramas and obstructive panhandling are overcrowded in courts. It is factual that these offenses are disruptive to the society. However, policies to punish the offenders should be implemented to ensure they do not queue in the court forever (Ehrenreich, 2009).
It is totally possible in some jurisdictions for a citizen to lose public scholarship, be denied professional license, or lose public housing as a result of riding a bicycle on the wrong side or walking unleashed dog. This is unethical and inhuman. The most important section of most caseloads is simply driving with expired or suspended license. These licenses are suspended for lack of insurance, failing to appear in court, lack of parking tickets and failing to pay for broken back lights. Specific charges for each offense make payments unfeasible. Defendants are expected to pay the fines to get back their licenses. This forces them to look for other transport means or opt to use public means, which is ineffective to them. No-violent persons with minor or no criminal history should not be jailed for driving with expired or suspended license. Violent offenders or those with devastating criminal history are the ones who deserve imprisonment. The criminal justice system should not criminalize minor infractions as this causes the increase in caseloads.
Reducing prosecution of trivial misdemeanour cases will not only improve the overburdened caseloads, but also quality representation of all parties. These minor offenses take courts time as well as recourses. This is evident in sending notices, longer calendars and multiple hearings which require resources. Additionally, arresting officers are forced to waste a lot of time in the minor cases at the expense of serious cases. Re-classifying minor offenses will improve the criminal justice system, as this will allow pros...
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