The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't , and How to Fix It

The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't , and How to Fix It

The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't , and How to Fix It

The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't , and How to Fix It

Synopsis

This critical yet honest appraisal of our criminal justice system addresses its strengths and its flaws- and makes recommendations for improvement.

• Provides an extensive bibliography including books, journal articles, newspaper accounts, and government documents

• Includes a chronology

Excerpt

The Constitution of the United States is the basis of the American criminal justice system. Because that document is over 200 years old, it has been interpreted and amended numerous times, so that the criminal justice system has changed over the years to reflect the beliefs and needs of each succeeding generation.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, in the light of such scientific advances as DNA testing, the need to improve the criminal justice system is evident. It is thus the purpose of this book to exhibit the current shortcomings of the system with a view of providing suggestions for reasonable alterations in the system.

During a parliamentary debate in 1947, Winston Churchill, former prime minister of England, said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Those words may also be said of the American criminal justice system. It is not the intent of this book to denounce the entire criminal justice system, however, or to seek to invent a different system. Instead, it is hoped that the discussion presented here will serve to improve what we have, making our approach to criminal justice more equitable and more attuned to the needs of the United States of America’s twenty-first-century citizens.

Police, in particular, should be more aware of our current needs in criminal justice because the police are the one branch of the criminal justice system with which the vast majority of Americans come in contact. Neither the courts nor the prisons are known firsthand by more than a fraction of Americans, despite the fact that we have a greater incarceration rate than any democracy on earth.

This book also explains some of the history of our criminal justice system. For example, it is generally unknown that criminal prosecution was at one time a private matter and that citizens had to calculate the cost of prosecuting an offender before doing so. Even the police began as a private force, remaining so until the beginning of the twentieth century.

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