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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Essay on Politics in Criminal Justice System

Essay on Politics in Criminal Justice System

          The criminal justice system is an institution that seeks to serve the ends of justice.  Theoretically, it could only become effective if it is insulated from pressures and intervention coming from its external environment in the performance of its functions.  Notice that the symbol of our criminal justice is a blind-folded goddess that is holding scales on her left hand.  This should be interpreted to mean that justice applies to all and will be served to all people regardless of the color of his skin, his social and economic status, his political affiliation, his age and gender. 
            In practice however, the criminal justice system as a whole is not insulated from politics.  The appointment process alone is political as it originates from the President.  The appointment of the federal judges, such as the Supreme Court justices, court of appeals justices, and district court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate.  The implication of this in the criminal justice system is that only those who have the confidence of the President can be appointed to these positions. 
            Even the laws which judges use as basis for the conviction and sentencing of the accused are primarily political as they are enacted by legislators who are politicians.  The changes in the composition of Congress have a strong impact in the administration of justice.  The effects of the political changes are mainly felt in the juvenile justice system.  There were periods of time when the philosophy behind the creation of the juvenile justice system was observed and lenient treatment was according the juvenile offenders.  However, because of the changes in minds of the legislators, they seek to adopt a more punitive philosophy against juvenile offenders.  Through prosecutorial discretion where prosecutors are given the complete authority to determine whether to file a case against a juvenile offender in juvenile courts or directly in criminal courts and through statutory exclusion where some states automatically grant jurisdiction to criminal courts on offenses committed by juvenile offenders depending on either the age or the nature of the offense charged, the philosophy behind juvenile justice system slowly changed. 
            The impact of politics is also felt by criminal justice organizations.  There was a time when civil liberties were respected by criminal justice organizations.  Even if there were violations against constitutional rights, these were done discreetly by some organizations.  With the enactment however of the Patriot Act following the attack against our country on September 11, 2001, these organizations have been empowered and given broader discretion and authority to investigate cases of terrorism. 
            The FBI and the NSA are only some of the organizations benefited by these changes.  Research shows that since the 9/11 attack the rights of American citizens are being violated.  One of the serious violations is the sending of National Security Letters (NSL).  According to the Inspector General of the Justice Department, the number of NSLs exponentially increased from 8,500 back in 2000 to 147,000 between 2003 and 2005. (Alexandra Marks 3)  The right to privacy of thousands of Americans and non-Americans are also being violated by virtue of aggressive domestic surveillance of government agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA). (Katherine B. Darmer, R. Baird, and S. Rosenbaum)  After the 9/11 attack, President Bush signed an EO giving the NSA the power to wiretap the overseas communications of people suspected of having contact with Al Qaeda. 

            These changes in the criminal justice system should not be interpreted to mean that the administration of justice is becoming flawed and corrupt.  Changes in the laws and the manner of appointment of the members of the judiciary do not by themselves affect the administration of justice.  The criminal justice system and the criminal justice organizations will continue to survive and will continue to get the support and respect of the people despite these political pressures and changes.  The important thing is that prior to the conviction and sentencing of the accused, the decision made is supported with evidence.  So long as due process was observed and that the accused is given the opportunity to be heard then justice is served.     

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