The book states the current need to incorporate changes into the Criminal Justice System. It suggests implementing modifications that essentially make the entirety of criminal justice evidence-based. To grasp the importance of such alteration, it is necessary first to gain an understanding of several points regarding the subject, which will be addressed in this essay.
It is crucial to understand what the term “evidence-based” means. In Correctional Theory: Context and Consequences the authors mention the concept of outsider knowledge, referring to the scientific method of gaining information (Cullen & Jonson, 2016). In a broader sense, being evidence-based implies being based on some objective evidence, deriving from unprejudiced observation, which the authors consider a necessary aspect of the Criminal Justice System.
As opposed to the outsider, or scientific, knowledge, there also exists insider knowledge, which is sometimes referred to as clinical. Clinical knowledge is based on the personal expertise of insiders in various fields and is, therefore, subjective. The book does not disregard insider knowledge, stating that workers in the criminal justice environment have a deep understanding of how this sphere works and can make decisions based on their clinical knowledge (Cullen & Jonson, 2016). However, it is unlikely that basing a system responsible for society’s well-being and safety on subjective opinions is rational. Thus, it is necessary to understand the flaws of insider knowledge.
Clinical knowledge, as a form of knowledge attained through individual observations, deals with the problem of generalization, the problem of being self-contradictory, and the problem of selectivity. Correctional Theory: Context and Consequences states that reliance on individual expertise might lead to false assumptions, namely the incorrect notion that personal experiences are universal (Cullen & Jonson, 2016). In addition, it is impossible for the individual expertise of one person not to conflict with that of someone who has faced a situation that might seem similar on a surface level but, in reality, is entirely different due to dissimilar circumstances.
The current Criminal Justice System, mainly applying clinical knowledge instead of the scientific approach, is often influenced by the social context surrounding those involved. People working in the field are not passive observers of events happening around them, but active participants, influencing each situation in ways they might not even be aware of. First and foremost, different personal backgrounds affect subjective views and opinions, which results in potentially poor decision-making within the Criminal Justice System. It seems as if objectivity is necessary for this field. Nevertheless, people in the system might draw conclusions based on politics, convenience, subconscious or conscious bias, individual opinions, and beliefs (Cullen & Jonson, 2016). Those subjective decisions may lead to drastic repercussions, both for the offenders and potential future victims. This issue of subjectivity in the Criminal Justice System, and its consequences result in Correctional Quackery. It leads to people receiving inappropriate punishment for their offences, sometimes disproportionate to the crimes they have committed, based solely on prejudices that the people working in the system might hold.
Those are the points that the authors make concerning the Criminal Justice System and the reasons its modus operandi needs to be altered. The primary argument in favor of this idea is, of course, the possibility of making the way the Criminal Justice System operates better suit the goal that all justice systems aim for: bettering society. It is, of course, strenuous work, but bringing more objectivity into the field is quite reasonable.
Cullen, F. T. & Jonson, C. L. (2016). Correctional Theory: Context and Consequences. Sage.