This essay will an examination of the aims and objectives of the criminal justice system, looking at how effective it is with regards to the punishment and rehabilitation of offenders, the public opinion on its effectiveness using statistics and reports, and specifically targeting the issue of flaws within the prison and parole services, also a brief look at where we are today in comparison to many years ago in the earliest period of Crime and Investigation. We know from a great many sources and from history that the Criminal Justice System, in one form or another, goes back many thousands of years, in this essay we will also look at the history of Criminal Justice in order to determine whether, through time, it has become more effective or less effective or if the system itself has been consistently effective since it was first put into practice.
The first sign of a Criminal Justice System came many thousands of years ago in Ancient China, the name of the system at the time was not Criminal Justice it was actually the Prefecture system, this system was developed in both the Chu and the Jin Kingdoms of Ancient China. Perhaps more relevant or similar to the Criminal Justice System we know today, would be the systems used in Pre-Modern Europe. In Pre-Modern Europe many thousands of years ago crime in Ancient Greece and Rome for example was very much viewed as a private matter, it was the prerogative of the victim’s family members to exact some form of justice. Vendetta’s and private wars were common place as a means of protecting themselves against criminality. The first sign of a government instigating policing of the people came from the Ancient Greeks and the Romans, in Athens a group of 300 Scythian slaves were assigned to guard public meetings to keep order and for crowd control, they also assisted in dealing with criminals, manhandling prisoners and making arrests. Other cases associated with policing including investigating crimes were left to the citizens themselves. The Roman Empire had a pretty effective law enforcement system until the decline of the empire, though there was never an actual police force per-say in the city of Rome. When Rome was under the reign of Augustus the capital had grown to a population of almost one million inhabitants, Augustus created fourteen wards each protected by a garrison of one thousand men who could call for the assistance of the Praetorian Guard if necessary. Then in the beginning of the 5th century, Policing became the duties of the clan chiefs and heads of state. During the middle Ages, crime and punishment were dealt with through blood feuds (or trial by ordeal) between the peoples involved. Payment to the victim or family, which was known as a wergild, was another common punishment, this included violent crimes. For those who could not afford to buy their way out of punishment, harsher penalties included various forms of corporal punishment. Such as mutilation, whipping, branding, and flogging, the most severe of these was execution. The primary form of state-administered punishment during ancient times and the middle Ages was banishment or exile. Though a prison was in existence as early as the 14th century in Florence, incarceration or long term detainment was not widely used until the 19th century.
The Anglo-Saxon system of maintaining public order was a private system consisting of separate tithing’s, and since the Norman conquest, which was based on a social obligation for the good conduct of the others; more common was that local lords and nobles were responsible to maintain order in their lands, and often appointed a constable, often unpaid, to enforce the law. The Ancient Romans also played a huge role in the criminal justice system. Even the toga symbolizes the wig a magistrate wears in the legal system that exists today. So when we look at the assignment of those to a position of public order, were they more, or less effective than cases being handled solely by the people, this is difficult to determine as the first officially recorded crime statistics were the BCS or British Crime Survey in 1982, however we can look back and see a far more effective level of justice since the appointment of law officials and crime investigators.
The British Crime Survey 1982 – present looks at the public’s experiences of crime (in the earlier dates asking about crimes experienced in the year before) weather these crimes were reported or not, this determined the important alternative crimes to the more commonly known and reported, for the police records. The questions asked covered the victims of crime, the circumstances to which incidents occurred and the behaviour of the offenders committing the crimes. Through these enquiries the survey provides information to inform crime reduction measures and to gauge their effectiveness. Through this the BCS was able to determine people’s attitudes regarding the criminal justice system, police and courts system. These actions have given the Public a relatively balanced and reasonable amount of information regarding crime/criminal behaviour. In order to determine how effective the criminal justice system is given that we know all the facts (from the BCS), we need to identify what measures to use, to measure the effectiveness. For Example looking at the public confidence in criminal justice agencies, public confidence in other government agencies, public fear of crime, proportion of taxes/national expenditure going to justice agencies, the crime rate, the proportion of the population who are criminals and the number of cases of infringement of human rights by justice agencies (Lewis 2003). The methods or processes countries have to tackle the issue of making the Criminal Justice system fit for purpose. There are government and voluntary organisation’s who take up the role of drawing attention to poor or unfit justice processes, local managerial structures designed for justice agencies and local government to build effectiveness ensuring that there is a level of quality control, and government funded inspection processes. The projected plans or idea’s of these is that the public in general knows very well whether or not the justice process works. The public will slowly accept and deal with certain levels of crime and public surveillance but not so much so that it inspires paranoia, they are also likely expect the police and courts to be tough and yet turn a blind eye to some practices which may be an infringement of human rights. But only up to a certain limit as there is only so much the public can cope with. Interestingly in most countries even those that are well funded and governed there is a rather low general knowledge of the Criminal Justice System. There are many countries where the justice agencies are in effect independent to the political parties, so changing politicians will not make a great deal of difference. This is certainly the case in England and Wales today, where the Labour government has chosen simply to continue most of the policies of the previous Tory government, with the prison population inevitably continuing to grow. “The Government’s criminal justice system is not fit for purpose” (Moses 2010), Colin Moses a high ranking member of the Prison Officers’ Association felt that prisons are being placed in a position that forces them to cut their budgets at a time when England and Wales are holding a record high number of prisoners. And now the Government is being forced to pay out compensation to offenders. This compensation is brought about by prisoners taking cases to the London High Court regarding the delay of Parole Hearings, with some prisoners finding the delay was in breach of their human rights and said that the delay was generally speaking totally unacceptable. One individual added that, with pressure ever growing on the Parole Board as a result of new legislation and the introduction of indeterminate sentences, it was actually “the obligation of the Government to have provided the necessary resources for what was clearly a predictable and indeed inevitable increase in the workload” (Collins 2010). This would be a terrific blow to the Criminal Justice System being regarded by the public to be fit for purpose, as Legal experts have made claims that in past cases, compensation has been approximately one hundred pounds for each day an inmate is wrongly detained. This is a considerable amount as the average delay in holding parole hearings is five months. The shadow justice secretary, said: “It is appalling that public money should be wasted like this” (Herbert 2010). This large amount of the tax payer’s money could quite easily have paid for secure accommodation required to hold or detain prisoners so that violent offenders are not released early onto the streets of England and Wales. When Gordon Brown was chancellor he refused to provide sufficient prison capacity and has subsequently overloaded the prison and probation services, and re-offending has continued to rise excessively. The firm Bhatt Murphy, which a present has more than twenty compensation claims pending, had stated that the Parole Board has accepted, privately, that it is in breach of the law and is having to cope with the Government’s continuous failures to think through logically all of the relevant policies. With an ever growing case load, the Parole Board is finding it difficult to the extreme to assemble the judges, psychologists and probation officers who are required to assess each case within the given time. Parole Hearings are held specifically for all types of violent and sex offenders. Given this information the public must not be reassured of the Criminal Justice Systems effectiveness and worse still is a statement made later by the head of the Parole Board. Christine Glen had admitted to the constitutional affairs select committee that the backlog of cases involving parole for prisoners was completely unacceptable and she even stated that it was likely to worsen (Harper 2007). This does not inspire a great deal of confidence in the Criminal Justice System and its ability to be fit for purpose. Another public relations spokesman for the Parole Board had stated that in spite of the government putting considerable efforts into addressing all of these problems, the deferral rate is still so high it is deemed unacceptable. The single largest contributing factor remains to be the sixty per cent of cases received late from prisons and a further ten per cent of cases not actually received at all before the date the hearings were meant to take place.
Also stated was that they are aware that there are unacceptable delays in hearing cases and that this raises the possibility of breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights and subsequent compensation claims from prisoners who are kept in custody longer than necessary. All this scandal is the latest controversy to hit the criminal justice system. In June 2007, it was revealed that inmates released early would receive almost two hundred pounds to compensate them for eighteen days of lost prison space. These actions were an attempt to reduce overcrowding. The ever growing issue of overcrowding has pushed the Prison Service to have to spend more than six million pounds to house six hundred convicts in police cells. In spite of the fact that thousand were walking free early, the prison population stood at 80,229 inmates in 2007, forcing dozens of inmates back into police cells. This is all clear evidence that the Criminal Justice System has tremendous flaws. Lord Phillips said in an interview with The Independent: “The reasons for the rise in the prison population are quite complex but there is no doubt it has been steadily growing and the forecast is that this trend will continue. Certainly some criminal legislation dealing with sentencing has had the effect of imposing longer sentences or sentences which keep people in prison until they demonstrate they are no longer dangerous.” (Phillips 2010). One subject of particular concern was the new indeterminate sentence for public protection or as it’s also known the IPP, which was brought in four years prior. Recently the Prison Governors’ Association and the Liberal Democrats stated that hundreds of convicts who could be released were being detained in prisons because the Government had failed to pay for the necessary drug treatment and rehabilitation courses for the offenders. Lord Phillips also said he had reservations about the IPP sentence which includes a minimum term, after which the prisoner has to show that he or she is suitable for release and no longer a danger to society (Verkaik 2009). The judge involved had stated that he knew the legislation had been changed to meet some of the concerns but that he was not clear about the latest figures regarding prisoners detained beyond their minimum required sentence. The Government says a further three million pounds was made available to aid with resourcing IPP’s. “When I was involved it was apparent there was a resource problem when dealing with IPP prisoners in relation to giving them the rehabilitation that they needed in order to be in a position to demonstrate they were no longer a danger, and also there was a problem with the resources of the parole board in considering whether or not they ought to be released” (Phillips 2009).
He also added that Prisons must be provided for individuals judges send to prison. And that what governs the overall prison population is a complicated question and legislation dealing with sentencing can then increase or decrease a prison population. He explained however that he had always been in favor of alternatives to custody although that would be down to the discretion of the judge.
So in conclusion, there are many flaws in the Criminal Justice System but what ciaos could the nation be experiencing without the Criminal Justice System as we know it today, and to what extent would crime exist if there were a different system. No the Criminal Justice System is fit for Purpose.