U.S. Criminal Justice Interest Groups: Institutional Profiles

U.S. Criminal Justice Interest Groups: Institutional Profiles

U.S. Criminal Justice Interest Groups: Institutional Profiles

U.S. Criminal Justice Interest Groups: Institutional Profiles

Excerpt

Given the size of the criminal justice system in the United States it might be expected that there would be a large number of interest groups attempting to fashion criminal justice policy. Although we both have been doing criminal justice research and teaching for a number of years we were surprised to find that there has been very little research about criminal justice interest groups. Thus, this reference volume breaks new ground. In it, we have tried to include all of the major groups that might be called "interest groups" in each of the three major areas of criminal justice: law enforcement, courts, and corrections.

First, however, we wrestled with how to define "interest groups." In the area of criminal justice the major players do not all fall into what might be defined as an interest group in the classical sense. The common definition of an interest group is a group of people who have common interests and who pressure government to adopt policies that favor their interests. We found that this conception must be broadened in order to be able to include groups that do not simply lobby government officials but who also raise consciousness about criminal justice issues that had been ignored in the past. One example is the National Organization for Women, which succeeded in raising the public's consciousness about domestic violence and thereby getting policy changes aimed at treating this as a crime rather than just a "family matter." Another is Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who succeeded in getting penalties for driving while intoxicated increased. These are not interest groups in the same sense as the American Farm Bureau in the area of agricultural policy.

Another important dimension of interest groups are those that are a part of the criminal justice system rather than outside of it. An example here is the Fraternal Order of Police whose members are among the most influential in shaping policy, particularly in regard to law enforcement.

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