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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 81466 Find in a Library
Title: Crime Control and the Courts - Who's Failing Whom?
Journal: NLADA Briefcase  Volume:38  Issue:3 and 4  Dated:(Winter 1981)  Pages:86-92
Author(s): R D Raven
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 7
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This examination of the role of the courts in the perceived crime epidemic concludes that many criticisms of the courts are unfounded and that efforts to control crime must deal with its root causes and view the criminal justice system as an interrelated whole.
Abstract: The media, the public, and the politicians have focused all their attention on court reform as a means of reducing the crime problem. Public attention has focused on apparent leniency by individual judges and on individual convictions which were reversed because of technicalities, rather than on the fact that the courts are not involved with most criminal activity because only 6 of every 100 crimes result in arrest. Court reforms are politically popular because they appear to be tough on criminals as well as inexpensive. However, the reforms have enormous hidden costs and may have a negligible impact on the crime rate. Moreover, a change in one part of the criminal justice system will have effects on the rest of the system, since the system's components are interrelated. For example, mandatory sentences for burglary will increase the number of spaces needed in prisons. Contrary to popular opinion, the California courts actually have an outstanding performance record. Most felony cases disposed of in 1978 resulted in convictions, and the rate of incarceration was higher than for the Nation as a whole. Nevertheless, the public favors even harsher sentences. In addition, court reformers have cited four other areas as reform targets: plea bargaining, pretrial delay, the exclusionary rule, and the availability of mental defenses to criminal liability. However, these reform efforts overlook the central problems. For example, criticism of mental defenses overlooks the point that such defenses are rarely used and are seldom successful. Similarly, increased incarceration is not a long-term solution to crime. Attitudes toward crime must change, and efforts must focus on attacking crime's root causes and on spending the money needed for improved crime prevention and law enforcement efforts. Footnotes are given.
Index Term(s): Court reform; Deterrence; Deterrence effectiveness
Note: Reprinted from San Francisco Bar Journal, (September 1981)
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