The Role of the Criminal Justice System

Abstract This essay will attempt to discuss and contrast three segments of the criminal justice system, Law enforcement, Courts, and Corrections. Without all three sections working together, there would not be public-order. The first person an offender comes into contact with is law enforcement. These are the people who investigate and ultimately make the arrest. Law enforcement agencies main purpose is to keep the streets and the people living on them safe from all types of crime. The second element of the System is the courts. The main purpose of the courts is to decide if an individual is guilty or innocent.

This important decision is made by the judge, a panel of judges, or a jury panel of unbiased citizens. The third and final step in the Criminal Justice System is corrections. A convicted offender is usually turned over to the corrections department following the courts to fulfill their punishment which includes monetary restitution, house arrest, probation, community service, prison, or capital punishment. Sometimes there is a mix of punishments. This step is also used to hopefully help to rehabilitate an offender. Officer Interview Police Officers are one the most respected professionals in America.

Given all the responsibilities of protecting and serving the public, police officer jobs can be a dangerous, high-stress occupation. According to the FBI, in 2011, 72 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty. (FBI, 2011) Even though their jobs are dangerous, they are the backbone of the criminal justice system and contribute substantially to their communities by being the first line of defense in maintaining public-order. I chose Officer Don Majors for my police officer interview.

He is retired military and has been on the Oklahoma City Police Department for 5 years. He works the Northwest side of Oklahoma City in the Hefner Patrol Division. According to the Oklahoma City website, they cover 141 square miles of northwest and far western parts of Oklahoma City. (City of Oklahoma City, (n. d. )) For people not familiar with Oklahoma City, that is a high crime area with lots of gang and drug activity. Some basic biographical information; He is married with no kids, collects and shoots a wide variety guns. He doesn’t consider himself as a “prepper” but more of a hoarder/collector. That is how I met him. I sell firearms at the Base Exchange.

After talking with him he knows way more about guns than I do. But when we talked he was not bragging on what he knows it was more like a teacher and a pupil. John: Why did you join the Oklahoma City Police Department? Don Majors: For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a police officer. I’m sure, as a little boy, what first caught my attention were the flashing lights and sirens on the police cars. It could have also been police officers were permitted to carry a gun and had the ability to run red lights. This is why as I grew up and played games like cops and robbers, I was always the police officer.

After high school I joined the Army and spent 20 years in Military Police. My wife and I wanted to move back home to Oklahoma City after I retired. I looked into some of the other police departments and Oklahoma City was the only one hiring at the time. After spending a few months I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. John: What is a typical day like? Don Majors: "Hours of boredom interrupted by moments of unbelievable horror. " He said he got that from Everybody Loves Raymond. After we laughed… John: Have you ever had to use your weapon? Have you ever had to shoot someone?

Don Majors: No, I have never fired my weapon other than training. Thank God. John: When you stop someone what goes through your mind? Does the race of the person change the way you do things? When I asked this he gave me a look, like “Where is this going? ” Don Majors: I don’t treat anybody different because their “not white”. I am suspicious of everybody when I make a stop. The first thing is I do is look for any suspicious movements on the part of the driver or passengers. Do they look like they are trying to hide something or get something?

And when I talk to them are they acting suspicious. It's more just of awareness and being alert and ready. I guess it's a survival instinct. Second, you never go past the pillar behind the front door that separates the front seat from the back seat. You want to stay slightly behind the driver; otherwise you become a big open target if they have violent intentions. Almost all stops are routine and go as you would expect. However things get interesting when I call in the license and I get the “felon tone” over the radio. That means the driver has an outstanding felony warrant.

John: I pulled out my text book and turned to page 101 and asked…Which Policing style do you follow most? The "Watchman style", "Legalistic style", or "Service Style". (Frank Schmalleger, 2012, pp. 101-102) Don Majors: Most times it is a combination of styles, depending on the situation we are dealing with at the moment. If I'm assisting on a medical call, giving advice on crime prevention, doing funeral escorts etc. , I'm service style. If I'm dealing with assault such as spousal abuse, I'm legalistic towards the offender, and service oriented towards the victim.

On a dull midnight shift I'm mostly watchman style. My impression of Don is that he is very professional and knows his job well. He is very easy to talk to but he has a command presence. Of course I asked more questions of him and we talked quite a bit mostly about guns. Being an officer seems like an extremely stressful and dangerous, yet fulfilling job knowing that you helped protect someone. Many people only see the police as bad people. Most people only interact with them when they are pulled over or arrested. But police are only there to serve and protect the community by maintaining public-order.

Twelve Angry Men 12 Angry Men is a look into the past American justice system before the civil rights era and the expansion of civil liberties in the 1960s. This jury represents a microcosm of society and how prejudices and biases and other factors effect reaching a verdict on a criminal case. In seeing the jury process, a great deal is revealed about our society and its values at that time. This jury consisted of a wide range of individuals.

No two men are alike in occupation, social status, age, background or upbringing. Less obvious differences are revealed through opinions such as racism, violence and social prejudice. After seeing Twelve Angry Men, although I have seen it many times before but never critically, my view is that, although people are imperfect, justice is still achieved. It took one man willing to standup to what eleven other jurors have regarded as the truth and that it has been settled as soon as they entered the deliberation room. We see how the system works when Juror # 8’s doubts slowly becomes most every man’s doubts. In the end we see justice prevail. As the saying goes “The wheels of justice grinds slow but sure. ” Does the movie support or criticize the American judicial system?

Perhaps both, it shows the system works in the way that it was intended to; however it is also a criticism showing that it only works if everyone does their due diligence and votes their conscience without bias or prejudice. I also believe it is a validation because the jurors did end up voting the correct way, in my eyes anyway, though it took quite amount of convincing on juror # 8’s part. They voted the right way because there was room for reasonable doubt. The law uses the term, "proof beyond a reasonable doubt," to tell you how convincing the evidence of guilt must be to permit a verdict of guilty.

The law recognizes that, in dealing with human affairs, there are very few things in this world that we know with absolute certainty. Therefore, the law does not require the People to prove a defendant guilty beyond all possible doubt. On the other hand, it is not sufficient to prove that the defendant is probably guilty. In a criminal case, the proof of guilt must be stronger than that. It must be beyond a reasonable doubt. (New York State Office of Court Administration, (n. d. )) They found there was a reasonable doubt, and thus had to vote not guilty; which is the way the jurors are instructed to vote, though many were hesitant to do so.

We should to take away from Twelve Angry Men with a better understanding of how unrealistic it is to expect the human emotion to remain completely independent from the rule of law. This is impossible because no matter how hard we try we will always bring our baggage with us. Perhaps we should leave the film with ideas for jury reform to make the system less imperfect. Some of us think that a jury should consist of a panel of judges like we discussed in one of our class discussion groups.

In the end, however, our system remains imperfect but the best one in the world. Being a juror is the responsibility of every good citizen. It is the responsibility to protect individual rights and promote public-order. Probation/Parole Office Observation At yearend 2011, about 4,814,200 offenders were supervised in the community on probation or parole, and 2,239,800 were incarcerated in state or federal prisons or local jails. About one in 50 adults was under community supervision while about one in 107 adults were in prison or jail.

(Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012) Probation is necessary to the criminal justice system by meeting the needs of offenders who require some correctional supervision short of imprisonment while providing a reasonable degree of security to the community. Parole fulfills a similar purpose for offenders released from prison. (Frank Schmalleger, 2012, p. 293) Probation/Parole officers perform services provided to the community for probationers and parolees by managing re-entry programs for the purpose of increasing public safety in the hopes of reducing future criminal behavior.

Some of their duties include: Managing caseloads of adult felons by employing motivational interviewing skills to determine the offender’s stage of change for each identified need area; monitoring activities of offenders to ensure adherence to action steps negotiated through transition planning and to conditions ordered by releasing authority; assisting offenders in obtaining and maintaining employment; and engaging on-going support for the offender in the community by assisting the offender in identifying a network of family and friends with a pro-social orientation. (Oklahoma Office of Personnel Management, (n.d. )).

The first thing I noticed when I was researching this essay was the number and different types of probation and parole offices. There were federal, state, county and city offices all over metro Oklahoma City. I decided to go to the main probation office for Oklahoma City. At first I didn’t think I had the right place. I expected it to be run-down and dirty. I don’t know why I expected that, maybe too much TV. However, this was more of an industrial area. The building next-door was an electrical supply warehouse. But there was the seal of Oklahoma on the door right above a no weapons sign.

Walking in this was pretty close to what I had visualized. It looked more like a bus station than an office area. There were 40-50 seats lined up in rows and in a corner a person behind a Plexiglas window. I sat on the back row and observed the 15 people in the waiting area. It did seem they didn’t get called to see the officer very quickly. I went to the window and explained who I was and why I was there. I asked to see a probation officer and it would only take a few minutes. She was very nice and said she would see what she could do. In the 45 minutes or so I was there only two people that were called back.

As I observed I kept thinking, what did that person do to get them here. I did talk to one person. I asked them how long they had been waiting. They said “Over an hour”, in disgust. They had an appointment at 11:00 and it was now 12:10. I asked if that was typical. They said sometimes it is worse. When I left they were still waiting and I never spoke to a probation/parole officer. Being a Probation/Parole officer has to be a daunting task due to relatively low earnings, heavy workloads, and high stress. Then why do it. Maybe it is the intrinsic reward of watching offenders become productive and successful members of society.

The positive aspects of working with clients who are motivated to better themselves can outweigh the potential negatives of the job. Crime has plagued civilization since the beginning of recorded history. The criminal justice system is the only thing that has been proved to minimize the spread of criminal activity and protect its citizens. It is essential because it maintains public-order while balancing individual rights. If there were no public-order, people could commit crimes without consequences. If it did not balance individual rights then people would be afraid that anything they own could be searched or taken from them.

References Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2012, November 29). Probation And Parole In The United States, 2011. Retrieved November 29, 2012, from Bureau of Justice Statistics : http://bjs. ojp. usdoj. gov/content/pub/press/cpus11ppus11pr. cfm City of Oklahoma City. (n. d. ). Hefner Patrol Division. Retrieved 12 01, 2012, from The City of Oklahoma City: http://www. okc. gov/okcpd/neighborhoods/hefnerpatroldivision. html FBI. (2011). Officers Feloniously Killed in 2011. Retrieved 11 24, 2012, from Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www. fbi. gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/leoka/2011/officers-feloniously-killed/o.