The American Judicial System: Does It Favor The Criminal?

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.. ffenders, the same holds true for drug and violent crimes. Prosecutors strive for reduced sentences due to prison overcrowding, first-time offenders and non-violent criminals leave court rooms with "mandatory minimums" thanks to the "safety valve law" which took effect in 1995 (Sniffen n. p.g). These are some of the issues which may lead the general public to feel as though the American Judicial System has done little to combat the drugs and violence. Allowing first time offenders and non-violent criminals to receive "mandatory minimums" helps to save the government money, as well as offers these low-level criminals the opportunity for rehabilitation (Sniffen).

In actuality, the percentage of arrests leading to serious penalties have increased from 1995 to 1999 as seen in the chart below (Hansen 81).OFFENSE MEN WONENViolent 60% 49%Property 71% 57%Drug 88% 79% Lawmakers in America are making every effort possible to make punishment harder for convicted felons. Recently in the New Hampshire primary, a record was set: it was the first and possibly the last time prisoners could vote in the state presidential primary (Cole 17A). Although the inmates won a lawsuit entitling their to the right to vote through the New Hampshire constitution, the state is appealing the ruling and could possibly win the suit in the future (17A). Many states forbid convicted criminals the right to vote. There are 45 states that do not allow prisoners to vote (17A)

Another way states have show their aggressiveness to criminals is by public notification. In the state of California's new crack down on crime, the names of juveniles "suspected" of crimes may be disclosed even before the juvenile has been charged (Booth A03). Many states also offer web sites which post names, addresses and even maps of sexual offenders living in their communities (Edry n. p.g). Although many civil libertarians argue that such web sites violate the privacy rights of the convicted offender, government officials maintain that families have the right to the knowledge to protect themselves and their children (Edry). "In 1986, anti-drug hysteria led Congress to pass legislation requiring stiff sentences for drug offenders" (Greider 42).

It is clear that these long awaited strict laws have strengthened the American Judicial System. Incarceration IssuesAccording to a recent poll posted on the Internet, 83% of people responding felt American tax dollars being spent for incarceration were helping to accommodate a "country club lifestyle" for incarcerated criminals (Wall n. p.g.). Many prisons, such as Raleigh Correctional Center For Women in Raleigh (RCCW), North Carolina, offer inmates such "luxuries" as cable television, weight lifting equipment and educational opportunities (Barefoot n. p.g). The United States Commission on Civil Rights believes that in order to avoid future incarceration problems, the American Judicial System must strive for the rehabilitation of convicted criminals (Cose n. p.g). Cable television and other simple luxuries are a large part of rehabilitation and in order to rehabilitate an inmate, you must educate, employ and reward inmates for achievement of their goals, according to Joy Barefoot, Superintendent of RCCW. Some funding for services inmates receive as reward for achievement of goals are provided from inmates who have earned work-release rights: the right to work for pay in a public job while serving prison time (Wall). According to Barefoot, inmates help ease a part of the finical burden suffered by the government by paying rent for each week they have worked while in prison.

Inmates work hard for the prison facility itself in order to keep the facilities running properly (Holland n. p.g.). Inmates essentially provide all labor for cooking, cleaning and maintenance of the prison along with manual labor for highway construction and road side-clean-up crews (Wall). According to 1st Sergeant Holland of RCCW, "It takes a lot to keep a prison running and these inmates do all the labor; gaurds are just guards." Although many people feel that incarceration is much like a luxury vacation, the facts remain that the American Judicial System continues striving toward rehabilitation of criminals to prevent increases in crime and prison population. Dispite beliefs that the American Judicial System shows favoritism to the criminal, lawmakers strong efforts to establish strict laws for the punishment of juvenile offenders. This system continues movements allowing the imprisonment of all aged offenders, as well as imposing harsh punishments to those who commit drug and violent crimes; proving the American Judicial System does does not favor the criminal. Works CitedAdler, Jerry. "Murder at an Early Age." Newsweek 24 Aug.

1998: http://www. newsweek. com/nw-srv/issue/08-98b/printe d/us/na0508.htm. 10 Mar. 2000.Alter, Jonathan. "Powell's New War." Newsweek 28 Apr. 1997 http://www. newsweek. com/nw-srv/issue/17 97a/printed/us/na0117.htm. 11 Mar.

2000.Barefoot, Joy. Superintendent, Raleigh Correctional Center for Women, Raleigh, NC. Telephone interview. 5 Mar. 2000.Booth, William.

"California Toughens Juvenile Crime Laws." Washington Post 13 Mar. 2000: A03.Butterfield, Fox. "Experts on crime warn of a ticking time bomb." The New York Times 6 Jan. 1996: 6.Cole, David. "Denying felons 17A. vote hurts them, society." USA TODAY 3 Feb. 2000: 17A. Cose, Ellis. "Locked Away and Forgotten." Newsweek 28 Feb.

2000: http://www. newsweek. com/nw-srv/printed/us/so/a1657 2-2000feb20.htm. 11 Mar. 2000.Edry, Sandy. "Sex Offenders Online." Newsweek 31 Dec. 1998: http://www. newsweek. com/nw-srv/printed/01-99a/tnw/ today/cs/cs02we2 1.htm.

13 Mar. 2000.Greider, William. "Mandatory Minimums: A National Disgrace." Rolling Stone 16 Apr. 1998: 42-50.Hansen, Mark. "Taking a look at crime." ABA Journal Feb 1998: 81-82.Holland, Lillian. Sergeant, Raleigh Correctional Center for Women, Raleigh, NC.

Telephone interview. 5 Mar. 2000.Johnson, Kevin. "Youth in Adult prisons double, Increase is reflection of states' hard line." USA TODAY 28 Feb. 2000: 1A. Lawrence, Jill. "Similar agendas, dissimilar approaches." USA TODAY 28 Feb. 2000: 11A. Leinward, Donna. "Michigan, Federal laws address children and guns." USA TODAY 1 Mar.

2000: 3A. Murphy, Caryle. "Underage Students Still Have Easy Access to Bars, and Experts Decry a culture of alcohol." Washington Post 12 Mar. 2000: C01. Powell, General Colin. "Left To Myself." Newsweek 27 Apr. 1998 http://www. newsweek. com/nw-srv/issue/17-98a/nw-980 427 032 1.htm.

11 Mar. 2000.Reidinger, Paul. "The making of a victim." ABA Journal Apr. 1996: 98.Department of Justice Miami, FL. Executive Summary Department of Justice, 5 Dec.

96 through 1 Jun. 97.Sniffen, Michael. "Federal Drug Sentences Declining." Washington Post 13 Mar. 2000: C12.Wall, Lucinda. Former Inmate, Raleigh Correctional Center for Women, Raleigh, NC. Interview.

5 Mar. 2000.Young, Rebecca. "Bad News In Massachusetts." ABA Journal Nov. 1996: 42-47.

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