Cultural concerns in the criminal justice

In the United States of America we all rely on what the constitution reads, which is like constantly listen to our parents through our journey in life. Our system works in a way that there should be equality among every individual but the power given to some of our leaders whether they work in senate, courts or jail, can go to their head and the system shakes a bit. Culture is one of the issues we face in society, the US is a diverse country but this difference can affect our justice and administration and how it’s practiced.

Courts often seek for alternatives when sentencing defendants convicted of hate crimes. Many times individuals who commit a crime for the first time act out of ignorance or low self-esteem when they commit hate crimes. Many juveniles commit crimes such as burning crosses and scrawling offensive graffiti on public buildings which are considered to be hate crimes against religion and society.

Many of these individuals are required to take diversion courses which teach them about their behavior, these courses cover racism, anti-Semitism and civil rights laws, offenders by the end of the course should have an understanding of why their behaviors are considered discriminatory and inappropriate.

According to the non-profit Sentencing Project racial inequalities exist during sentencing proceedings. There was a research conducted by this group regarding cultural inequalities in criminal sentencing. An interesting fact of this research was the finding of how a criminal case decision is influenced through racial aspects. For instance, juries in some states tend to recommend the death penalty for homicide defendants accused of killing a white person. In trials, many times prosecutors seek the death penalty in those racial cases that involve white victims.

A new study by M. Marit Rehavi of the University of British Columbia and Sonja B. Starr of the University of Michigan Law School shows that Black Americans receive almost 60% long prison sentences than white Americans who committed the same crime.

The study covered 58,000 federal criminal cases and found that there was a significant difference between the sentences given to Black people to those given to white people, (McCalla, 2012).

Although the constitution guarantees a fair trial, juries fail to represent their local community in which they serve. In the past, court systems relied on rosters of registered voters. The Supreme Court wants local courts to have other methods of selecting its jury that is different in race and ethnicity. In recent cases many states now allow courts to pull citizens records such as driver’s license and company information to make a drawing of a more diverse group of individuals that could be suitable to be potential jurors.

Not only has the jury become more diverse but also the criminal justice system is also known for its diversity among police officers which is a positive sign that there is equality among its departments. When law enforcement officers work with others of different cultures and sex they tend to demonstrate greater sensitivity toward others including their colleagues. Police departments encourage and mentor females and minority youths to consider entering the field in law enforcement.

In 1829 a British Conservative statesman, Sir Robert Peel, who served as prime minister of the United Kingdom between 10 December 1834 to June 1846. Peel helped create the modern concept of the police force, known as bobbies and peelers. As prime minister, Peel issued the Tamworth Manifesto during his first term in office, this manifesto lead to the principles from which British Conservative Party is based on.

In early 19th century Britain, the British government was trying to set a police force but people were suspicious of the idea of a possible armed large police force. The public fear was upon the possible suppress protest or support unpopular rule.

During that time Paris had the best-known, best-organized, paid police force and Britain was at war with France from 1793 to 1815.The idea of a large police force was disliked by many because it would associate France with Britain. In that time lapse people rejected the thought that it was the job of the government to set up and control a police force. Many British believe that the police would be best if controlled by the locals.

So what Sir Robert Peel did was create a concept of professional policing when he became Home Secretary in 1822. The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 established full-time and centrally-organized police force. This Act was followed the nine principles known as the “Peelian Principles” which were issued to every police officer in the Metropolitan Police. It has been thought that this list of the nine principles was more likely work by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, who were the first and joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police.

Many of the nine principles are used in today’s policing, not all the list is used by many of the law enforcement but those who do use some I believe to a better job. If the principles were used in today’s society citizens wouldn’t be so scared of the law enforcement and would actually have more respect for them. These two principles from the list are the ones that many officers don’t follow in today’s world:

To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective, (Policing by consent, 2012).

To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence, (Policing by consent, 2012).

Many times officers shoot individuals just to find out that they weren’t carrying nothing else but a toy gun, errors like these make residents lose interest in helping government departments and the community. People cannot trust officers if their only way of showing they can control communities are by shooting and embracing fear to local communities.

A police officer for a Texas school district may have used excessive force in fatally shooting a teenager who fled the scene of a fistfight, a federal judge ruled… The incident unfolded on Nov. 12, 2010, when Lopez allegedly exited a school bus and, in view of Alvarado, punched another student. Lopez ignored Alvarado's order to freeze and fled the scene with the school officer tailing him in a patrol car, according to the amended complaint... With his gun drawn, he rushed through the gate and into the back yard. Within seconds from arriving at the residence, Alvarado shot and killed the unarmed boy hiding in the shed, (Baron, 2013).

The police department is now based in taking over areas and meeting the citation quote of the day, it would not be impossible to organize law enforcement departments with the nine principles but it can be hard to achieve because the criminal justice system has been shaped a certain way that all officers are used to and feel comfortable with.

Something that has changed in the force field is the understanding of discrimination as compared to 1970's when sexism was not considered to be a form of discrimination. The public’s perception was that a women’s work place should only be at home in her role of cooking and taking care of her children. Even remotely thinking about a woman holding a gun and protecting civilians was bizarre and not accepted.

It made it almost impossible for women to get a job in the law enforcement due to the requirements the departments asked for in the application process and with other set standards such as height and weight. These were requirements that discriminated women, and showed how women were not encourage pursuing or try to achieve a career in the force field. For example many departments had requirements such as a four-year college degree for women while the only requirement for a man was to have a high school diploma.

The criminal justice system tries to follow the constitution and support equality among every citizen and government employee, but the power that is given to some law enforcement officials is used incorrectly or to their benefit including questioning authority condoning lives of others. The difference in skin color and religion are still a problem in our society, we have yet to accept that we are born different and live in a diverse country. No principle list could make a difference in a land full of stubborn because we would have to first understand our origins in order to understand a list written in the 19th century.

References: Policing by consent. (2012, December 10). Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/policing-by-consent Baron, B. (2013, July 17). Judge rules cop who shot and killed unarmed 14-year-old hiding in a woodshed after a fistfight may have used excessive force. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/texas-cop-shoots-unarmed-teen-hiding-woodshed