The current era is one where the average number of crimes being committed is relatively high compared to the past years. The increase in the number of crime cases has forced law makers to review laws and make tougher ones, as well as increase penalties imposed for various crimes. As the number of people being jailed increases, jails expand and criminal justice institutions keep transforming. Sentencing policies have changed, with emphasis being put on approaches that are “smart on crime”. Further, technology has also facilitated criminal investigations over the last couple of years (Robinson, 2009).
Public outcries, usually supported by the media, have pressured governments to review laws to maintain order and prevent violence from citizens. The components of the criminal justice system include the court system, the law enforcement agencies and the juvenile system. This essay evaluates the changes that have taken place in the criminal justice system over the years. The paper evaluates the past systems, the current, as well as the future trends and their interaction within the society.
Past trends in the criminal justice
Crimes were generally few in the United States of America In the past years. Not many people used drugs, people in illegal possession of guns were few and the level of violent crimes was low compared to today. Drug abuse and drug trafficking started to become widespread in the 1960s. As a result, the government made a quick and aggressive response by implementing a program for arresting those who violated drug laws (Muraskin & Roberts, 2008). Government also started incarcerating drug peddlers and blocking drug trafficking at the borders, as well as collaborating with other nations to dismantle drug cartels. Violent crimes increased notably in the 1980s. At the time, many law makers were more focused on increasing the penalties and sentences served in jail. Many people were incarcerated in the years between 1980s and 1990s, serving long sentences. However, this approach proved ineffective as crime rates continued to rise. It created the need for better ways to enforce the law. In the early 2000s, criminal offenses were redefined, thus reducing crime severity and subsequent sentences. Alternatives to incarceration were adopted. These reforms took place within the first decade of the 21st century (Muraskin & Roberts, 2008).
The court system has also changed over time. Politics is the most dominant factor that influences the court system. For instance, it is the political demand for severe punishments of some crimes that led to the courts enacting rules that are comprehensive for sentencing federal crimes. The court rulings changed as laws were made and amended to control the increasing crime rates in the 1990s. These laws influenced court decisions (Victor & Naughton, 2010). In addition, the federal sentencing guidelines had a lot of effect on courts’ decisions. Implemented in 1987, the guidelines provided for long term sentences to drug traffickers and armed robbers. The courts have gone on to become more independent from the political influence over time. The society has been dynamic, and this has resulted in the court system changing its decisions (Robinson, 2009).
Recent and future trends
Over the last couple of years, technology has changed the way most things were being done in the past. Investigations have been made easier by technology. Technology has enabled the intelligence department to access more data regarding crimes, thus prompt and necessary actions are taken. Demographics and cultural dynamics have led to a constantly changing law enforcement industry. The current trends in the criminal justice system started being implemented in the early 2000s. The criminal justice system has attracted many debates due to its controversial nature. The controversial issues in the system have raised many questions, most of which have remained unanswered (Waller 2008). The nature and complexity of crimes has increased owing to technology. The government has not been able to come up with approaches that can completely curb crime. Criminals keep on finding ways to get away with their crimes. This is one of the issues that have led to the many debates regarding the criminal justice system. The law enforcement and the court system have, however, changed and might as well look different in years to come.
Sentences have been modified to become shorter. This has followed the redefinition of crimes and their classifications. The severity of crimes has also been reduced. The enforcement of laws today does not rely on the penalties and length of sentences. Instead, programs have been developed whereby inmates are rehabilitated when in prison (Victor & Naughton, 2010). This helps them come out of prison being reformed and being people with better outcomes. The programs were implemented after it became evident that long sentences do not have any effect on reducing the rate of crimes from increasing. The lawmakers have also been constantly finding ways of strengthening the alternatives to incarceration. Among the ways that have been developed include substance use treatment for drug users, community supervision, as well as formation of speciality courts (Muraskin & Roberts, 2008).
The issue of racism has also been at the centre of many criminology debates. There used to be many inequalities in the criminal justice system in the past, most of which have now been improved. The black Americans received harsher punishments compared to their white counterparts for similar crimes. It has been argued that blacks are the perpetrators of most crimes. While there is some truth in this, the treatment of criminals should be equal regardless of the colour of the skin. The law nowadays is fair, though it may seem like it is still tough on blacks since it targets gangs, most of which are composed of the blacks. White collar criminals also get the punishment they deserve for their crimes as opposed to the past when they would get away due to the power of their class and court bias (Maguire & Radosh, 2004).
The number of police officers has also been increased to assist in enforcing the laws. Hot spot policing has been applied to reduce the rate of crimes in the most prone areas. Police are also assisted by technology to apprehend criminals and detect crimes that are taking place. Generally, the criminal justice system has been influenced by the society’s outcry and has changed to its wellbeing. The role of the criminal justice system is to prevent legal wrongs as opposed to the socially harmful behaviour; however, it emerges that most socially harmful behaviours are legal wrongs, thus they influence the criminal justice trends (Walker & Katz, 2008).
The future of law enforcement, courts and corrections is likely to be influenced by the following factors among others; cultural diversities, changing roles of women in the society, the changing philosophies of crime and justice, the changing demographics, as well as advancements in technology. It is suggested that future courts are likely to be more focused on better and positive ways of problem solving. Crimes are generally reducing, but the rate is still high. The changing lifestyles of people are likely to change the course of crimes, causing a need for reforms in the criminal justice system. As the general population is approaching advanced ages, the court system will be forced to review its policies on incarceration and other correction measures. Women are being recognized in high roles in the government and the judicial system, and this is also likely to bring changes in the system (Maguire & Radosh, 2004).
Technology has presented the criminal justice systems with ways of improving their efficiency. Criminal justice systems will be able to investigate high profile crime cases in the future in a more efficient way since they will be in a position to access more data and intelligence regarding the crimes. As philosophies on crime change, the court systems might also be compelled to change. There are some crimes that were considered as very serious in the past, but their severity is reducing due to philosophical changes. This will force the system to adjust the court’s ruling on such cases, and the correction methods for them (Maguire & Radosh, 2004).
The criminal justices trends have changed over time. The changes have been influenced by various factors that affect the society. The focus of these changes has been to reduce the number of crime cases, as well as make the system better. It has not been easy to achieve these objectives since crimes have been taking new twists at high rate. However, the general number of crimes has reduced and the criminal justice system has improved significantly. The entire criminal justice system is also expected to undergo changes in the future as lifestyles continue to change and technology continues to advance.
Maguire, B., & Radosh, P. (2004). The past, present, and future of American criminal justice. Walnut Creek, CA: AltiMira Press.
Muraskin, R., & Roberts, A. R. (2008). Visions for change: Crime and justice in the twenty-first century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Robinson, M. B. (2009). Justice blind?: Ideals and realities of American criminal justice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Victor, J. L., & Naughton, J. (2010). Annual editions: Criminal justice. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Walker, S., & Katz, C. M. (2008). The police in America: An introduction. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.
Waller, B. N. (2009). You decide!: Current debates in criminal justice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.