Journey through the criminal justice system
The journey through the Criminal Justice System that one may have to take if he/she is ever stopped by a police for committing a crime is a long process. There are many different factors that influence one's initial treatment, arrest, sentence, or release. Many say that the Criminal Justice System is highly influenced by one's class and background they say that it is racist and biased. On the contrary some will argue that it doesn't matter what race, gender or ethnicity you are; everyone is treated the same, a crime is a crime. But I find this absolutely absurd; facts and statistics have proven that most minorities will have a different experience throughout the criminal justice system than do people of the majority. “Despite the more severe harms resulting from the actions of white-collar offenders, society recognizes young, urban, poor, African American males as the “typical criminal.” (McNamara, Burns.2009.27)
I am in no way claiming that the Criminal Justice System is formally biased or racist but I do believe that there are minor cracks throughout our system that seem like they have been formed for the sole purpose of making people of the minority fail in the system. According to, Multiculturalism in the Criminal Justice System, “The system is not biased. Some individuals impacting the system are biased.” At first glance one may say that his is indeed true statement; but even if the physicality's of the Criminal Justice System is not biased, if you have people who are in the system that are racist and biased, that in turn makes the system racist and biased. The individuals who work for and represent the Criminal Justice system are who make the system what it is. The system is nothing without the people in it. Thus if the people are biased and racist; so is the system.
Let me now begin the process through the criminal justice system. I will explain the legal process and the decisions that lead some people to believe that the system discriminates against some more than others. First off throughout the process we encounter the observed, reported, and investigated crime stage. We have a young African American who has locked his keys into his car and does not own a spare set. His car is parked along the side of the street and he begins using different tools as a mean of breaking into his car. A couple drives across and sees this man and automatically assumes he is breaking into someone's car. They call the police and report that they see a young black man trying to break into someone's car. Police rush to the scene to investigate what is going on; legally the police must report to the scene to check out the crime that has just been called in. The police get there and see that the man is still trying to “break into” this car.
They tell him to step back from the car or he will be arrested. The boy becomes agitated because he knows has does nothing wrong and refuses to step back from the car. The police then question him about exactly what he is doing and he explains. The boy's perceived discrimination here is that because he was of color and seen trying to use tools to gain entrance into a car the police automatically thought he was breaking in. As I have already stated, legally the police had to show up and find out what was happening; to the boy it may have seemed like him showing up at all was discriminatory, because the he was only trying to get into his car after locking himself out. But what the boy did not know was that, showing up to the scene was a legal factor that any police officer would have had to take despite of anything else; but the way in which this police officer handled it by telling him to back away before he even asked what was going on did make it seem as if he was being racist. This one situation can lead to the boy resenting police for the rest of his life. He may continue to hold a grudge against all police officers because, rather than the police asking if he needed help they assumed he was committing a crime.
The next stages in which we get into are the arrest and charges stage of the process. We have a couple in which the wife is white and the husband black, who are fighting at home and their next door neighbors hear them and call the police. As procedure has it, the police must give such a call priority as who ever the victim is may be at risk. The police will conduct a complete investigation and use their digression to decide whether or not anyone will be arrested. When the police get to the house they are still fighting and the police separate them and bring the fighting to a stop and places them both in hand cuffs. They begin to explain to him that she started the fight and over something minute and then it just got out of hand. Even though both partners were involved only the man was arrested and taken to jail and charged with domestic abuse, where as the woman was charged with nothing. The man's perceived discrimination here may be that, the police only took him away because he is the man. To him she started the problem and made it progress as far as it did, so she should have been the one to have been arrested. But what he may not know is that because she is indeed the woman and the mother of family's kids the police officer was more lenient towards her; because traditionally the mother is in more control of her kids and it would be a lot easier for them to remove the father, rather than the mother; despite that fact that she did indeed start the problem. From this encounter with the police the man may begin to think that police favor women and that woman who are involved with the same crimes as men are more likely to be given less harsh treatment.
In continuation with the last scenario we see where the man whom has been charged with domestic abuse is now up for a preliminary hearing. A Preliminary hearing is a proceeding wherein the prosecuting authority must establish in court that they have probable cause to detain the individual on the filed charges. The legal process of the hearing is designed primarily for the benefit of those incarcerated individuals who have been unable to post bond, to ensure that they are not held in jail on unfounded charges. (Pfeifer.2008) Unfortunately the prosecuting authority has been able to prove probable cause to keep the individual in my scenario detained. They have evidence in the forms of a statement from the wife, neighbors, and pictures of numerous contusions located all around her body. The man who is being detained may feel that this is unfair treatment due to the fact that-Yes there is evidence that he physically abused his wife but she also physically abused him, but because he is stronger his abuse was more noticeable.
Next in process is the Grand jury stage, because the case has not been dropped the man facing the domestic abuse charges must now go through a grand jury process. This process happens when cases are not dismissed; the prosecutor will present the case to a grand jury for an indictment. The grand jury is composed of a group of citizens who have been selected from voter registration, driver's license and tax lists. The grand jury considers evidence presented by the county prosecutor and determines if there is sufficient evidence to formally charge the defendant. An indictment is not a finding of guilt. Generally, neither the accused nor their attorneys are present. Witnesses normally testify regarding the crime. After considering evidence, if a majority of the 23 jurors vote to indict defendants, they must face further criminal proceedings. The return of an indictment is called a true bill. If a majority finds the evidence to be insufficient to indict, the grand jury enters a no bill and the charge(s) are dismissed. In this case he is being indicted. To the man being indicted it may seem like he has only being indicted because he is a black man who fought with his wife out of “self defense.” But when really according to the law this is what would happen to anyone despite of their race. This man's perception of the criminal justice system by now is distorted he begins to wonder what would have happened had he been a white male involved in domestic abuse where he was only defending his self. Would they have dropped the case? Or would his wife have gone to jail instead?
The arraignment comes next in the process; an arraignment is performed by a judge. Before the trial, the defendant appears in court and enters a plea. The most common pleas are guilty and not guilty. The defendant in my scenario pleads not guilty. He feels that the people in the Criminal Justice System are being racist and are blowing things out of proportion because of his race and the race of his wife. Even though “legally,” the judge has done nothing wrong the defendant feels that this decision has been based solely on the fact the he is a man, a black man at that. He does not realize that legally any person involved in such a crime is just as likely to face the same.
We now work our way further down the criminal justice process to the, Pretrial detention and/or bail. Detention refers to a period of temporary custody prior to trial. Bail is an amount of money paid by a defendant to ensure he or she will show up for a trial. Some may look at this part of the process and say that it is discriminatory. Because suppose you are of a lower class and you are unable to meet bail, then what happens to you? You are just going to have to remain in jail. Whereas, someone who is wealthy can just pay his/ her way out with no problem. This stage is a prime example of who the Criminal Justice system is made for; and who it is made against.
Throughout every stages of the criminal justice system process, I believe that the jury selection and trial are the ones that seem to get the most attention pertaining to discriminating, being racist, sexist, or whatever the case may be. “The jury selection has an influence on the outcome of many criminals' trials. The biased selections of jurors and unethical jury behaviour have unfortunately hampered the effectiveness of jury trials.” (McNamara, Burns.2009.261) If you have a black man being charged with domestic assault against his “white” wife, and you have an “all white jury” then you can imagine exactly how the jury is going to find the defendant. Nine out of ten times if you have a case such is this, they are going to find him guilty. They are going to have pity on her, as she is the white defenseless mother of his kids, whom he assaulted. Even though all jurors must go through the initial stages of venire and vior dire before they are picked to see who is right and who is not there are still cases where the jury ends up being a group of people whom feel the same way or have some of the same biases. According to, Multiculturalism in the Criminal Justice System, Venire is when states use various means to assemble a jury pool from which prospective jurors will be selected. The Voir Dire is the final step in jury selection, where prospective jurors are questioned by a judge and/or attorneys to determine their suitability for serving on a jury. The questioning is used to identify numerous things about the prospects. In some cases if the attorney feel that the jurors are not right for the cases they can ask to have them change; so that racist or biased are not being questioned. The man being charged end up with a jury of all Caucasians except for two African Americans. They found him guilty but was it because most of his jury was white or was it simply because he was indeed guilty? To him it may seem as if it was an unfair trial because he had an “all white jury,” but to others he deserved what he got.
Sentencing is done by a judge. If the accused is found guilty, a judge gives out a sentence. Possible sentences include a fine, probation, a period of incarceration in a correctional institution, such as a jail or prison, or some combination of supervision in the community and incarceration. In this case the defendant who assaulted his wife was sentenced to jail for eight months. “Males and minorities have been overrepresented in the criminal justice system. A greater percent of blacks are convicted of domestic assault than whites are.” (McNamara, Burns.2009.267) But is this because the Criminal Justice System is harsher on them or is there another reason? There is another reason. Domestic assault from an all white family is less likely to be reported to the police than that of a mixed family of an all black family. So even though those of minorities are being convicted of these crimes more it is not because the system is showing favoritism it is because the whites are less likely to report it.
Last in the process through the criminal justice system process is the Parole board and reintegration into society administered by local, state, or federal correctional authorities. Most inmates do not serve the complete term and are released before the expiration of their maximum sentences. Release may be obtained by serving the maximum sentence mandated by a court or through an early release mechanism, such as parole or pardon. Here we have the defendant who was arrested on the ground of domestic assault. He has now served six out of eight months in jail for committing a crime that he doesn't even feel he has committed. He is upset with the Criminal Justice System and is ready to be released. How will he perceive the criminal justice system after having been through the process now that he is almost out of it all? He will obviously no longer have respect of trust in the system. He will no longer believe that the system has been put in place to help; rather he will see it as a system built to bring minorities down.
"Criminal Justice: The Process of Criminal Justice - CliffsNotes." Get Homework Help with CliffsNotes Study Guides - CliffsNotes. Web. 30 Mar. 2010. <http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/The-Process-of-Criminal-Justice.topicArticleId-10065,articleId-9909.html>.
McNamara, Robert Hartmann., and Ronald G. Burns. Multiculturalism in the Criminal Justice System. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.
Pfeifer, William L. "What Is a Preliminary Hearing: Understanding Basic Procedures in Criminal." Law. Web. 30 Mar. 2010. <http://law.suite101.com/article.cfm/what_is_a_preliminary_hearing>.