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Inequalities within the 'Criminal JUSTICE System/Process'

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Introduction

Issues: Inequality in the underlying ideology Inequality in the definition of 'the crime problem' Inequality in practice in the CJS Policy...Addressing inequality? Ideological underpinnings: Talk about JUSTICE. In any society, actions taken in the name of the nation state need to be seen as 'just' in order to preserve legitimacy. When they are not seen as just then we get discontent and then often challenges to the authority of the state. We could argue that in simple terms, society is held together in part, by a type of social contract whereby individuals agree to abide by state law in return for the protection of the state. In order for this to work however, the majority of people would need to believe both that the law is generally beneficial to them, and that the administration of the law is fair and just. The presence of inequality in this process would suggest that some have a more fair and just experience than others, which is potentially problematic in as much that it causes dissatisfaction amongst some groups. However, what do we mean by fair and just? This might depend upon our perspective on what should shape criminal justice...How ideology penetrates the CJS. Stepping back from the CJS Gelsthorpe (2001 p105-6)1 suggests that there are six key competing perspectives, which influence how the system is, or should be run. These are: Due process Crime control Welfare and rehabilitative Critical socio-legal Bureaucratic Management When we look at CJ policy we will see how these pervade that policy. Explain four most significant to this lecture. Due Process: Associated with the Legal profession: 'Formal equality before the law' * Justice should be administered according to publicly known legal rules and procedures, which must be seen as just. * The court should act as an impartial arbitrator of conflicts arising between citizens * There is a presumption of innocence, a requirement to seek a measure of judicial equality, and the restraint of arbitrary powers. ...read more.

Middle

cold per year 50,000 Serious DIY accidents 1997 85,000 Homicides per year by people with mental health prob 40 Suicides per year by people with mental health prob 1000 Children murdered per year 45 Children murdered per year outside family 4 Deaths due to prescription drugs 2000 1,200 Deaths mentioning Heroin on death certificate 754 (various articles on BBC News site) Not going to go into complexities of why this is the situation, in this lecture, however the important issue here is that despite risks from elsewhere, the CJS is mainly concerned with what we see as 'the usual suspects'. When it comes to identifying 'the usual suspects' ... 'the poor, the unemployed, the unemployable, the homeless, the physically ill and the mentally disturbed,' there are opportunities to exercise discretion at every stage of the CJ process and this may be affected by the 'type' of person, the criminal justice practitioner thinks you are, could be related not only to issues such as race, class and gender, but also things like demeanour: Descretion occurs when decisions are made: Whether to stop and search. Whether to caution/charge. Whether to remand in custody or bail What type of penalty to administer. How long that custody should be. What happens in custody. Wilson and Ashton (1998 p83) argue that discretion provides opportunities for discrimination. Important because this is when 'subjective decisions' are made on an individuals 'criminal tendencies'. This is where the CJS is underpinned by the crime control model rather than the due process model. It also can potentially bring in an assessment of risk from managerialism, or the possibility of individual treatment in terms of a welfare approach. Look at race as an example: Political comment is important as it may affect public perceptions of a particular issue: July 95 Paul Condon, the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner urged ethnic community leaders to recognise that: 'it is a fact that many of the perpetrators of muggings are very young black people' (cited in Wilson and Ashton 1998 p81). ...read more.

Conclusion

argues that the government is more concerned with ensuring conformity rather than addressing poverty, social exclusion and inequality. Social exclusion unit about getting people out of poverty by 'New Deal' work, but in practice concentrates on undesirables such as Rough sleepers, truants and pregnant teenagers. Hough (5/6/2001 Guardian) Although there is a reform agenda eg Drug treatment and testing orders (DTTO's), that the authoritarian approach is also important, with curfew orders, parenting orders, anti-social behaviour orders, and drug testing orders all being pushed. Also he talked about the government's 'custody plus' plan, where sentencers would be able to 'pick and mix' sentences to include custody and community tariffs. Hough however is concerned that sentences might be ratcheted up, so that the offender obtains two forms of punishment instead of one. Going back to our original study about inequality in respect of race, there is a seven line statement in the crime reduction strategy about combating race hate crimes, and attempting to keep ethnic minority staff in the police. Sivanandan director of the institute of race relations (21/2/2000 Guardian) notes that nothing has been done to dismantle the policy of stop and search, which is clearly discriminatory to ethnic groups. Also according to Sivanandan, nothing has been done about the accountability of the police in respect of deaths in custody, in fact the situation has got worse in as much as 'The freedom of information bill' has exempted the police from having to make full disclosure of their actions in all areas of policing. Also police culture tends to result in officers closing ranks on such issues. (See work by Reiner 2000 on cop culture) Conclusions: Inequality exists at many levels within the CJS. Whilst some attempt has been made to address general inequality in labours policies, ideological underpinning of the CJS in terms of 'crime control', and concepts within managerialism and welfare such as decisions about individual treatment and an assessment of risk and danger, as well as the unproblematic definition of 'the crime problem' may still ensure that inequality in the CJS persists. ...read more.

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