The Criminal Justice System

The Criminal Justice System: Prevention, policing and punishment.

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  • Created on: 21-01-12 18:14

Crime prevention

Situational crime prevention - Clarke argued that the way to make the costs of crime outweigh the benefits was to make it more difficult to commit crime and to benefit from it.

Community safety - Argues that intervention and community action must happen alongside crime prevention methods. Intervention identifies risk factors (such as low income, poor housing, run-down neighbourhoods, low school attainment and lone-parent families) that are linked to early offending. Farrington and West argue that if some or all of these risk factors were changed then there would be lower levels of crime. As well as identifying groups that are at risk of committing crime, intervention tries to limit their offending. The local community should be involved in combatting crime.

The 'Broken Window Theory' argues that if less serious crimes are allowed then more serious ones will later occur.

The Criminal Justice System traditionally sought to punish and rehabilitate offenders but is now more concerned about preventing crime and managing crime by reassuring communities.

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The Police

The police force is the main agency responsible for social control. They maintain public order and enforce law.

Traditional beat policing was replaced by officers in cars who responded to reports and incidents in the 1960s. In the 1980s larger groups of police officers in minibuses ready to respond to disturbances were introduced on top of officers in cars. By 2000 these methods were replaced by neighbourhood policing and reactice policing.

The consensual approach - sees the police as having a close relationship with the local area. The police represent the majority of law-abiding people and protect them against the offending minority.

The conflict approach - sees the police as mostly patrolling working class and ethnic minority areas where they impose the law that reflects the interests of the most powerful groups.

The job of the police is to enforce the law but because there are so many laws that could be applied in many different circumstances, police officers use their discretion to decide which laws to apply and in which circumstances.  

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The Courts

After a person has been caught by the police the Crown Prosecution Service will decide whether to press charges and the person will be taken to court. Less serious offences are judged in magistrates courts (presided over by magistrates) and serious crimes in Crown Courts (presided over by judges)

Magistrates Court - Magistrates are volunteers drawn from the local community and are likely to be representative.

Morgan and Russell found that although there was an equal balance from either sex and overall the magistrates reflected the ethnic divisions in the country, 40% of magistrates were over retirement age, and 70% percent held or had previously held professional or managerial positions. The background of seniour judges is overwhelmingly male, White and Oxbridge educated. This means that magistrates/judges are unable to understand the situation of those they are judging.

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Punishment is the key component of formal social control. In modern society there are two main types of punishment, community punishment and custodial punishment. Approximately 50% of those who undertake community punishment reoffend, but about the same percentage of those imprisoned go on to reoffend after release.

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