How to Fix America's Broken Criminal Justice System

By Dutta, Sunil | The Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 2010 | Go to article overview

How to Fix America's Broken Criminal Justice System


Dutta, Sunil, The Christian Science Monitor


Our ultra-costly and ultra-punitive system is neither protecting victims nor rehabilitating lawbreakers. It's time for a new approach, one that consolidates disparate components into unified local Public Safety Agencies that provide both justice and security at a much lower cost.

America's criminal justice system is deeply flawed. Beyond the harsh sentences and wrongful convictions (including innocents on death row), the system we've created fails to support victims or reform criminals. Furthermore, the entire system is rooted in a punitive approach to crime.

America, the land of the free, has the world's largest prison population (2.3 million) and its highest incarceration rate. And our overcrowded prisons are disproportionately filled with blacks and Hispanics, causing many urban communities to lose trust in a system they consider biased and racist.

In short, our criminal justice system is providing neither justice nor security.

These fundamental flaws have been ignored for years, but the staggering cost of fighting crime at a time when cities and states are going broke is forcing taxpayers to pay attention. People are right to ask: Why continue to perpetuate a disastrously expensive and largely ineffective approach to public safety? Isn't there a better way?

There is. But we have to be willing to dismantle our current piece-meal measures and replace them with an integrated model: a single Public Safety Agency (PSA) at the local level.

Current system: a heavy burden on taxpayers

Crime - and fighting it - is expensive. Taxpayers bear a heavy burden to fund the police and related emergency services (911, medical response, trauma centers), the courts, the correctional system, probation and parole agents, and social service agencies.

The costs of these services is exacerbated due to the system's built-in inefficiencies such as redundancies, turf battles, compartmentalization, lack of cooperation, and lack of integration. The relationship among various components - for example, between parole agents and social service agencies - is often adversarial. This undermines effectiveness and leaves those most in need of help caught in the middle.

Finally, the political incentives that pervade the system lead to a focus on superficial metrics achieved (arrests, convictions) - not lives changed. This focuses the system in a wrong direction and also neglects the prevention of crime because prevention cannot be quantified.

The net result is that victims and their traumatized families rarely receive adequate financial or psychological help. And criminals rarely get rehabilitated; instead they go to prisons that serve as virtual graduate schools for criminality. As a lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department, I have lost count of how many times I've seen repeat criminals on the road to jail again. Society ends up paying economically and morally.

A bold, new approach

PSAs would be a paradigm shift.

It would make law officers true servants of the public, enhance transparency in law enforcement operations, and provide proper support to the victims, law violators, and their families.

The PSA would prevent first-time offenders from getting hardened and hardened criminals from getting worse. It would break the cycle of crime. Additionally, the system would provide far superior services at a fraction of the cost of the present system. The PSA would represent a complete transformation in how government provides justice and safety to communities across America. In essence, it would be a person-centered, not crime-centered approach to law enforcement.

The PSA would be a comprehensive collaboration of all public- safety personnel. Sworn officers, prosecuting and defense attorneys, emergency response teams, child and family services, social-welfare agents, community-service specialists, rehabilitation, job training, drug- and alcohol-abuse counselors, negotiators, psychological counselors, and probation and parole agents would all work together in the same building with the same mission. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How to Fix America's Broken Criminal Justice System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.