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NCJ Number: 43094 Find in a Library
Title: DISCRETIONARY JUSTICE AND THE BLACK OFFENDER (FROM BLACKS AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE, 1977, BY CHARLES E. OWEN AND JIMMY BELL-SEE NCJ-43091)
Author(s): T BANKS
Corporate Author: D C Heath and Co
United States of America
Date Published: 1977
Page Count: 10
Sponsoring Agency: D C Heath and Co
Lexington, MA 02173
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE MECHANICS THROUGH WHICH DISCRETIONARY POWERS ARE EXERCISED BY POLICE, PROSECUTORS, JURIES, AND JUDGES ARE EXAMINED. LIGHT IS SHED ON THE PARTIAL TREATMENT OF THE MINORITY OFFENDER.
Abstract: THE MINORITY OFFENDER HAS BEEN AT A DISTINCT DISADVANTAGE UNDER THE EXISTENCE OF DISCRETIONARY DECISIONMAKING LAWS. THE ATTITUDES, VALUE SYSTEM, CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PERSON WITH THE AUTHORITY TO EXERCISE DISCRETION, AND THE LACK OF GUIDELINES OR RULES FOR REVIEWING DECISIONS HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS DISPARITY. DISCRETIONARY POWERS IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE HAVE BEEN FOUND TO BE PARTICULARLY OPPRESSIVE TO BLACKS. FOUR AREAS IN WHICH DISCRETIONARY POWER IS OFTEN ABUSED ARE HIGHLIGHTED: POLICE, PROSECUTION, THE AMERICAN JURY SYSTEM, AND JUDICIAL SENTENCING. POLICE PROCEDURES IN BLACK COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN FOUND TO DIFFER FROM THOSE IN WHITE COMMUNITIES. OBJECTIVES IN LAW ENFORCEMENT IN MOST COMMUNITIES ARE OFTEN THOSE OF THE DOMINANT WHITE CULTURE, AND THERE IS A NEED TO INCREASE POLICE SENSITIVITY TO THE INTERESTS AND NEEDS OF MINORITIES. IDEALLY, THE INDIVIDUAL PATROLMAN SHOULD BE GOVERNED STRICTLY BY ADMINISTRATIVE RULES, WITH THE DISCRETIONARY POWER RESERVED FOR TOP LEVEL POLICE PERSONNEL. THE PROSECUTOR'S DECISION ON WHETHER OR NOT TO PROSECUTE INDIVIDUALS IS BASED ON HIS OWN JUDGMENT, AND THUS OFTEN INFLUENCED BY SUBJECTIVE CRITERIA: THE OFFENDER'S ECONOMIC BACKGROUND, SPEECH, MANNER, THE NATURE OF THE CRIME, AND PUBLIC SENTIMENT AMONG OTHERS. THE GERMAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, WHERE THE PROSECUTOR POSSESSES NO DISCRETIONARY POWERS, SERVES AS A GUIDE FOR ASSURING EQUAL TREATMENT. SINCE A LARGE NUMBER OF JURISDICTIONS CHOOSE PROSPECTIVE JURORS FROM VOTER REGISTRATION ROLLS, WHERE BLACKS, OTHER MINORITIES, AND THE POOR ARE NOT REGISTERED IN AS GREAT A NUMBER AS UPPER INCOME GROUPS, MINORITY AND POOR OFFENDERS ARE WHITES OR MIDDLE AND UPPER INCOME GROUPS, MINORITY AND POOR OFFENDERS ARE OFTEN GROSSLY UNDERREPRESENTED ON JURIES IN THE UNITED STATES. THESE JURIES OFTEN HARBOUR HOSTILE FEELINGS TOWARD THE MINORITY OFFENDER, WHOSE BACKGROUND THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND. A SUGGESTED SOLUTION LIES IN RESTRUCTURING THE JURY SYSTEM, SO THAT MINORITY COMMUNITIES AND BLACK POPULATIONS IN THE SOUTH ARE PROPORTIONATELY REPRESENTED. SINCE THERE ARE NO SET GUIDELINES TO ARRIVE AT STANDARDS FOR SENTENCING, IT DEPENDS LARGELY ON THE JUDGE'S OWN BELIEFS AND BIASES. MODEL CODES ARE CITED WHICH PROVIDE FOR PRESENTENCING INVESTIGATIONS AND WHICH LIMIT JUDICIAL DISCRETION. THE ONLY HOPE FOR CONTROLLED DISCRETION LIES IN ADMINISTRATIVE RULES SET BY THE POLICE DEPARTMENTS, PROSECUTOR'S OFFICES AND COURTS, SINCE LEGISLATIVE INTERVENTION SEEMS UNLIKELY. THESE REFORMS REMAIN, NONETHELESS, 'BAND-AID' SOLUTIONS. A BIBLIOGRAPHY IS INCLUDED.
Index Term(s): Black/African Americans; Discrimination; Germany; Judicial discretion; Juries; Jury selection; Minorities; Police discretion; Prosecutorial discretion; United States of America
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=43094

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