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Criminal Justice System Overview And Recommendations for Hometown Hometown Committee For Public Safety Study

Criminal Justice System Overview And Recommendations for Hometown
Hometown Committee For Public Safety Study
January 2014

Table Of Contents
I. Introduction
II. Crime Data ,Victimization Data, and Resource Summary
A. Crime Rates
B. Victimization Rates
C. Criminal Justice Resources
III. Recommendations and Justification
IV. Community Response Issues
V. Media Relations Issues
VI. Media Focus -Response to TV Report on Marijuana Use
VII. Citations

I. Introduction

Hometown is representative of American society. We have people of many cultures, races, and economic standings living and working together. These citizens can also be stratified in other groups, such as geographical neighborhoods, political leanings, and professional interests.

Unfortunately, with people comes crime. As members of the criminal justice system, it is our duty to prevent crime, to investigate crime that has been committed, to punish criminals, and to provide the community with a sense of public safety. Our duty can be simplified to "fighting crime". However, to fulfill our duty, we must understand what crime is ; what myths, expectations, and misperceptions are part of the community perception,; how the various groupings of our citizens have different perceptions and how those views are formed; whether it is possible for the community to have a realistic understanding of the criminal justice system; and finally, which theories of the criminal justice system can help us to both "fight crime", and to understand how to work with the misperceptions if our community and it's various sub-groupings. One area of focus of this study is media influence within the community; we must define media as we must define crime, we must understand what media is comprised of, and we must understand how media influences the different groups that make up our public. This examination of media becomes important as media is the only venue a citizen has of understanding the criminal justice system outside of personal contact.

The underlying theme of this study will be reducing what we define as crimes against persons and property. As we see that media influences the view of the public, we shall also see that violent crime and otherwise shocking crimes are the bulk of what the media covers, and how this, in turn, affects public perception. Thus by "fighting" serious crime, we best serve our community in both reality and perception. One thing will will need to keep in mind is that our perceptions, as member of the criminal justice system, of "fighting crime" will not always correspond to what other societal groups perceive the necessaries of "fighting crime" to be.

II. Crime Data ,Victimization Data, and Resource Summary

Before any recommendations can be made, let us examine the criminal justice system situation as it it. We can then match the reality of the environment against public perception. We can determine if resources are adequate to do the job correctly, or if resources are applied correctly to areas of priority. Our priority will be the reduction of serious crime rates, as explained in the Introduction.

A. Crime Rates

Crime rates in Hometown match the national averages, so we may use the national figures. we will understand "crime" to be defined as anything that is defined as illegal under federal, state, county, and local municipality laws. The Committee understands that laws are made as a result of competing public interests The politics model of criminal justice theory can be explained why this happens.. Some crime is defined as mala in se vs mala prohibita. The mala in se crimes, those that involve crimes against persons and property (crimes fitting into this category include murder, rape, assault, arson, robbery, burglary, and theft) are crimes that are recognized as serious throughout human history (given slight variation in cultural deviations). Mala prohibita crimes can be viewed as crimes against the public order, or perhaps more clearly as those issues which offend the moral sensibilities of the politically powerful at the time the law is enacted.

The rates for mala in se crimes since 2002
(Uniform Crime Reports, FBI, 2102)

B. Victimization Rates

Victimization survey results from Hometown also match the national rates. Our latest data is from 2008. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, surveys report victimization rates of 19.3 per 1000 for crimes of violence and 134.7 per 1000 for property crimes. However, the average rate of violent crime reported by respondents as committed by strangers is 49.9% There is a certain amount of discrepancy between the Crime reports and the victimization reports. A glaring example is that murder victims do not respond to surveys.

C. Resources

1. A list of policing agencies operating in the Hometown area include the Hometown Police Department,the Hometown Independent School District Police department, The University of Hometown Police Department, The Hometown Semi-International Airport Police Department (HSI), the City of Adjoing Municipality Police Department, The Incorporated City of Gated Hometown Police Department, the Good Old Boys County Sheriff's Department, and the This State Department of Public Safety. All of these agencies maintain offices in the Hometown area.
In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); and The Justice Department operate in Hometown, as per their defined missions. Finally, Homeland Security has an office at the HSI Airport, and works in cooperation with the HSIPAD

2. There are also correctional agencies to account for. The Good Old Boys County Jail is used for intake by all local agencies, and the Sheriff's Department staffs the jail. The Sheriff's Department also staffs the Hometown Minimum Security Complex. the county also maintains probation offices and the state maintains parole offices

3. In addition, there are jurisdictional differences in the court system. There are courts at the city, county, and federal level. In addition, there are levels of courts by jurisdiction, with higher levels of court having appellant oversight over the lower levels. Each court case requires judge, prosecutor, and staff support. For example, the budgeted cost per felony case closed, as Hometown matches the national average, as calculated as the total office budget in 2007 divided by the number of felony
cases closed, was $2,792 (BJS, 2007).  

4. Budgeting data for the local agencies was not available at the time of this study.  All recommendations will be made with the assumption that budgeting factors will remain neutral.

5.   Each incident of crime handled by the criminal justice system takes up a certain amount of resources, whether the case is cleared all the way through therjudicial system and into the correction system or not.  The resources allocated to the criminal justice system are not limitless.   It has been estimated that 34% of the combined prison population is there as a result of victimless crime. (Suede, 2011) At an average cost ( in 2005) of $23,876 per state prisoner, this is a huge waste of resources, especially considering that these figures represent the end of the criminal justice filter.

III. Recommendations and Justification
The recommendations as follows are based on the concept that reducing crime rates will enable us to reassure the community as a whole by providing the media with accurate, and positive news.

1. Shift focus to crimes against persons first, crimes against property second, traffic control third, and spend resources towards victimless and regulatory crime on a token and "as requested" basis.
WHY - Violent crime is the catalyst that media uses to push crime stories onto the public; in addition, by being able to prevent and reduce property crime, we reduce the amount of people with first hand experience with victimization. We will consider these these types of crimes to be serious crimes. In addition, resources used for victimless crimes waste resources that could be used to reduce serious crime rates

2. Decoy and surveillance units are to be given manpower priority, and utilized in the areas mapped out with the highest incidences of crimes against persons and property
WHY - By catching criminals in the act, we spend less resources in investigating crime, we have fewer victims, and we have positive news items for the media.

3. Provide a streamlined process to define which agency has responsibility for which geographical area, as well as for certain crimes as defined by legal jurisdiction.
WHY - Duplicating efforts is a waste of resources that could be used to reduce the serious crime rate.

4. Create a clean communications interface that will allow agents in the field to report jurisdictional alerts to a responsible party with a minimum of bureaucratic interface
WHY - By creating faster response rates for agents to deal with incidents of crime, we will be able to handle more incidents of crime

5. Reduce the bureaucratic footprint as much as possible
WHY- Individuals need to be responsible for decisions. By reducing the amount of time agents have to wait for decisions to be made allows for more time in reducing crime rates. In addition, time spent on bureaucratic requirements that do not fulfill the demands of criminal justice are yet another waste of resources.

6. Better communications from corrections officers regarding possible recidivists
WHY - By being aware of the areas that possible recidivist are in, surveillance teams can profile the target locations that are most likely to be target. This allows for effective crime prevention without undue harassment of parolees and probationers. In a 15 state study, BJS estimates that over two-thirds of released prisoners were rearrested within three years (BJS, 1994)

7. Create a public awareness and training campaign to promote self-defense
WHY - By creating an environment where responsible citizens can prevent crime, we not only create a force multipler for responding to crime in action, we also prevent crimes that then no longer have to be followed up with the use of investigative, judicial, and corrective resources.

8. Create a media response plan; for in detail discussion, see section V of this report. For examples of why media relations are necessary see section VI

IV. Community Response Issues

As stated in the Introduction, different community groups will have different perspectives on the criminal justice system in action, and will also have different priorotoes for the use of criminal justice resources, includijgnpublic order issues and certainly mala prohibita demands. It will be necessary to understand and utilize our media response options that will be discussed in section V to maintain honest and open communications with the community. Social construction theory, as well as the politics model, can help explain how these groups build such perceptions, and how we can respond to their needs. We will also need to be aware that an given citizen may be a member of several such groups, and that their perceptions and expectations may shift as their participation in any given group fluctuates. It is possible for the community to have a more realistic view of the criminal justice system, but that would require each individual within Hometown to take the civic responsibility to research for themselves. The factors of social constructs are always going to be biased. There are multiple possible repercussions of utilizing these recommendations as listed in section III:
Religious groups may complain if we do not publicly combat public intoxication or prostitution
Neighborhood groups may complain if prostitutes begin operating in their neighborhoods
Traffic accidents may go up if we reduce traffic control operations
If stop and frisk policies are used, we may face accusations of racial profiling
Reducing the bureaucracy may lead to issues with employee unions
More aggressive and confrontational policies towards serious criminals will lead to accusations of police brutality

V. Media Relations Issues

A major concern we must address is the media presentation of our policy, actions, and efficiency. the media as a source of myth-making in perceptions of the criminal justice system. The media itself can be characterized as a group with it's own identity, social constructs, and political interests. Certainly, media organizations have been accused of having political bias in their reporting (Media Research Center, 2014)

We need to understand that the media is not solely made up of the local newspaper and TV station, but also comprises the chat boards of the neighborhood groups, the Facebook pages of the people we see whether they be suspect or victim, the Twitter pages of activist groups, and every other medium of mass communication, including talk radio.

Discussion of the media as a news source ignores the influence that media has a a source of entertainment. A citizen that watches a TV detective shoot a gun out of TV villain's hand is not going to understand the miss ratio of rounds fired under stress and adrenaline.
We will need to meet with representatives from each media agency and try to get them to present accurate as opposed to inflammatory information, to avoid naming suspects before a guilty sentence is arrived at, to keep witness 's personal information off the air, and to avoid accusations of police brutality without credible likelihood of such. Any such arrangement and standing policies of how information pertaining to the criminal justice system is to be published should also be made public,; this will help mitigate suspicions of conspiracy and cover-up

We will need to create and maintain our own social media presence, regardless of the amount of cooperation we receive from the organized media outlets. This will allow us to present our own, accurate information, and will also allow us to interact directly with people who have legitimate issues with how we handle criminal justice operations. We will be able to do this openly and honestly.
There will be the obvious issue that we are biased. There is no counter this but continuous honesty and courtesy on our part.

Finally, we can see the kind of media report that is injurious to efficient criminal justice organization in section VI

VI. Media Focus -Response to TV Report on Marijuana Use

The study will use the example of a recent TV news report about marijuana to highlight the problems that media can cause in the public perception of the criminal justice system. We found that this TV report was both erroneous and inflammatory. For a line by line discussion, please see the preliminary report by the committee, "Criminal justice recommendations for Hometown". We will limit our commentary to a few assertions within the report, as several others were not sourced or specific.

The first allegation is that marijuana is more harmful then previously thought. What level of damage is caused by how much intake of marijuana? Will a person die from a second-hand whiff of marijuana smoke? By not specifying the level of damage, the report implies serious damage without having to justify these allegations

The third assertion is that marijuana use leads to to the use harder, more dangerous drugs. This is disputed by the results of a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which gives figures that 76 million people have used marijuana, while only 3 million people have used heroin. (SAMHSA, 2001)

The report cites a CDC assertion that marijuana causes physiological damage over long term use. Considering that the legal products tobacco and alcohol also cause bodily damage over long term use, this does not seem to be a pressing criminal issue. Indeed, the two following arguments deal with the issues of substance abuse, which, again, compared to legal substances which cause mental and physical damage when abused, do not constitute a criminal threat, or a threat to public order.

The penultimate argument brings back to the realm of criminal activity with two assertions,; that marijuana users commit more property crimes then non-users, and that marijuana users become aggressive and violent under the influence of marijuana. However, studies have also found that abusers of alcohol commit crimes at a higher rate of incidence then do non-abusers. In addition, the latest victimization survey shows that victims perceived the offenders to be under the influence of alcohol compared to to those under the effects of drugs at almost a 3 to 1 ratio, with 13.8% of respondents reporting their perception that he offender was under the influence of alcohol, and 5.1% reporting that the offender was under the effect of drugs. This leads us back to the point that there is a difference between a substance abuse issue, and a serious crime issue.

The last argument is that marijuana use can cause traffic accidents. The salient point is that it is already is a crime to drive under the influence of any substance that hinders the ability to drive safely. Overcriminilization is yet one more hindrance to the efficient use of criminal justice resources.

VII. Citations

Bureau of Justice Statistics Reentry Trends in the U.S. Retrieved January 18, 2012 from http://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/recidivism.cfm  
Crime in the United States 2012 Criminal Justice Information Services Division, FBI, Retrieved January 18, 2014 from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012

Greenfield, L.1998 Alcohol and Crime Bureau of Justice Statistics Retrieved January 17, 2014 from HTTP://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ac.pdf

Media Research Center (2014) Media Bias 101: What Journalists Really Think -- and What the Public Thinks About Them Retrieved January 18, 2012 from http://www.mrc.org/media-bias-101/media-bias-101-what-journalists-really-think-and-what-public-thinks-about-them 
National Household Survey on Drug Use 2000 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, (Washington, DC: SAMHSA, 2001]

Perry S., Banks D. 2007 National Census of State Court Prosecutors- Prosecutors in State Courts, 2007 - Statistical Tables BJS Retrieved January 17 2012 from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/ascii/psc07st.txt

Rand, M. & Robinson J. May 12, 2011 Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2008 - Statistical Tables Retrieved January 18, 2012 from http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2218

Reiss, A, & Roth J. 1993 Understanding and Preventing Violence, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press,

Suede, M  (2011,  September 29) Victimless Crime Constitutes 86% of The Federal Prison Population Libertarian News  Retrieved January 18.21012 from http://www.libertariannews.org/2011/09/29/victimless-crime-constitutes-86-of-the-american-prison-population/

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