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Criminal Justice Policy in Action Essay (Critical Writing)


The final paper discusses the premises of wrongful convictions and why it should be seen by the government as one of the most critical issues that are inherent in the current legislation. The basis of research on the issue of wrongful convictions is supported by a number of articles that address this criminal justice misconception from a number of perspectives and define police misconduct as one of the key factors that contribute to the increased number of wrongful convictions. The core underlying characteristics of wrongful convictions and implications of the latter for criminal and social justice are reviewed within the framework of this paper.

Literature Review

In their article, Kent and Carmichael (2015) discussed the problem of an increased number of wrongful conviction. They also found that throughout the last decade, the number of resultant exonerations also underwent a substantial increase. Kent and Carmichael (2015) identified that public confidence in the existing criminal justice and its authoritative power directly depended on the number of convictions (regardless of whether they were rightful or wrongful).

According to the authors of the article, the core problem of the current criminal justice system consists in the fact that there are states that choose not to adopt the laws that accept the due process clause. In perspective, this limits the level of protection against an increased number of wrongful convictions. Kent and Carmichael (2015) successfully identified that the due process clause was commonly disregarded in the Republican-based states while the so-called “innocence movement” was adopted by Democratic-based states. It is safe to say that the authors of the article thoroughly discussed the ways in which the policy affects the criminal justice system, its structure, and its organization. It is reflected by the problems that interfere with the implementation of a crime prevention strategy intended to reduce the number of wrongful convictions within both social and political contexts.

Garoupa and Rizzolli (2012) conducted another research in which they analyzed the impact of wrongful convictions on crime deterrence. Not surprisingly, it was found that the enforcement of this policy led to increased deterrence rates. The authors of the article mentioned that this supposition is widely criticized regardless of the practical evidence. According to Garoupa and Rizzolli (2012), wrongful convictions may have a negative influence on the criminal justice system in case if they adversely affect the balance between the innocent and the guilty. Overall, deterrence is moderately influenced by wrongful convictions due to the fact that the latter expose the public to the jeopardies of committing crimes. There are numerous circumstances that should be taken into consideration when discussing deterrence and its influence on different social layers.

Another research on wrongful convictions was conducted by Covey (2013) who believed that the police also impact the occurrence rate of wrongful convictions. Both the hypothesis and the basic premise of the author revolve around the fact that innocent people are the most common target when it comes to wrongful convictions that were committed through the fault of the law enforcement officers (Covey, 2013). The ideas of the author of this article also interconnect with the concepts that were discussed by Garoupa and Rizzolli (2012) because the discussion of the latter not only presupposed that wrongful convictions lowered deterrence, but also proved that police officers are not strangers to the substitution of evidence or falsification of testimonies.

They also believed that an increased number of wrongful convictions would have a positive impact on the society due to increased deterrence and public exposure to the outcomes of crime and punishment (Marion & Oliver, 2015). After comparing the previous exemption studies to the current mass exoneration reports, Covey (2013) recommended making two critical modifications.

First, he argued that the number of guilty pleas has increased significantly, so it is important to review the process of criminal conviction. According to the findings of Covey’s (2013) study, almost 90% of all cases ended up with the innocent defendants pleading guilty. Second, he advocated for the fact that wrongful convictions cannot protect the guilty by means of innocent guilty pleas. The effects of these recommendations are not expected to impact the criminal justice system right away. One of the reasons is the flexibility of constitutional rules that is recurrently abused by the police so as to cover the acts of corruption or noncompliance with the rules mentioned above.

Relationship between the Stakeholders

The relationship between the stakeholders (local, state, and federal) can be explained by the breakdown of the data obtained by Kent and Carmichael (2015). They claimed that this relationship is highly contingent on public opinion and there are critical implications that should be taken into account.

Throughout the process of investigating the relationships between the three key stakeholders, it was found that there are variables inherent in these relationships that contributed to an increase in the number of wrongful convictions (Mallicoat, 2016). This supposition is supported by the extensive evidence presented by the authors of the reviewed articles. According to Garoupa and Rizzolli (2012), the relationships between the stakeholders contain a number of predictors of wrongful convictions and are positively associated with the social context.

Constitutional Issues That Should Be Addressed

One of the constitutional issues that should be addressed by the US policymakers is poor implementation of the due process clause. Therefore, the existing criminal justice system is contingent on the need to reduce the number of wrongful convictions by means of transformation of the fundamental principles of the US criminal justice (Marion & Oliver, 2015). An in-depth review of this constitutional issue showed that there is a need to apply the due process clause more often. Nonetheless, it is not necessary to oppose any of the political parties or other governmental structures in order to increase the flexibility of the current approach to the wrongful conviction policy.

On a bigger scale, the constitutional issue heavily depends on how the courts are going to react to the application of the due process clause in situations where false testimonies preceded wrongful convictions. Even though in the majority of the cases judges are aware of the importance of employing the due process clause in a consistent way, they do not do it. This directs us to the question of whether there is an adequate possibility to help the defendants that cannot overcome the barriers that were thrown in by the judicial decisions. In order to stay protected, the defendant is required to go through numerous check-ups, and false testimonies should be double-checked as well.

There is a number of ways that can be helpful in avoiding wrongful convictions that occur by reason of false testimony. First of all, the judges should do their best to make sure that no false testimonies are involved in the trial process and the knowledge of the falsity is efficiently used in order to safeguard the defendant (this also relates to all the other actors involved as they may possess critical information regarding the testimony and a failure to inform the judges will become beneficial to the prosecution and leave no chance to the defendant).

Second, the definition of untruthfulness does not have to be directly linked to the false testimony and the due process claim that was grounded on it (Zalman, 2014). Even if it is slightly misleading, it is already a problem. Third, the judges have to be more empathic to the existing standards of applying (false) testimony to the case and outline a set of measures that would apply in the case if the witness hit the court with false testimony during the initial trial. To conclude, the topic of constitutional issues should also be supported by the fact that the court should be able to “diagnose” false testimony because the defense would not be able to do anything even if they knew that the testimony was false (unless the falseness was fully exposed during one of the hearings).

Revision of the Existing Policy

The criminal justice policy regarding wrongful convictions should be revised in order to correlate with the findings of the reviewed articles and minimize the occurrence of wrongful convictions (Miles & Raynor, 2014). One of the most significant criminal justice issues is the distinction of the existing policy. It is also important to mention that the changes in the wrongful conviction policy may have a huge impact on the internal criminal justice operations. It is important to address the issue of indefinite and ineffective local measures against wrongful convictions. Moreover, the majority of the measures that are currently taking place are not even aimed at reducing the number of wrongful convictions at all.

The effect of the revised policy on social justice can be presented as a unified approach to the problem of wrongful convictions. This point is of pivotal importance to the existing criminal justice system because the contemporary legislation presupposes that each state in the US applies its own approach to dealing with wrongful convictions (Siegel, 2015). On a bigger scale, the current policy should be revised so as to get in line with the evidence presented in this paper. The current US criminal justice system lacks flexibility, so it is crucial to address the issue of wrongful convictions in order to restore the balance of justice between the innocent and the guilty and increase the occurrence of use of the due process clause in every state (Huff, 2013).

Moreover, it is also critical to address the issue that relates to one of the constitutional calamities and revisit the legislation regarding the actions that should be taken if the prosecution reaches a verdict based on false testimony and does not recognize the falseness of the latter. The problem should be viewed as the lack of trial knowledge and consider the subsequent conviction a violation of the due process clause. On a bigger scale, it is important to revise the current policy because the court has to extend the protection grounded on the due process clause and grant the defendant a better chance to overcome the existing criminal justice barriers (Zalman, 2014). It is reasonable to do so because false testimony affects the number of wrongful convictions, and defendants require a much higher level of protection to evade false testimony and its dreadful consequences.

The Impact of the Policy on Criminal Justice

The impact of the wrongful conviction policy on criminal justice in the United States is rather significant because the defendant commonly has a rather short time frame to present any relevant evidence to the court. The lack of constitutional arguments leads to a situation where a new trial is impossible without newly revealed evidence (Cutler, 2012). This exposes a number of weaknesses in terms of criminal justice that should be addressed by the legislative body of the US. The first issue is connected to the limited time of filing the motion. The second problem relates to the due diligence clause which is not used effectively and does not preclude new trials.

The third weakness of the current policy is the low standard of the concepts that are used in court to protect the defendant from a wrongful conviction (Huff, 2013). The question that has to be answered is whether these concepts should make it easier for the defendant to evade conviction if a false testimony or untruthfulness is revealed during the trial. Even though the due process clause is not violated by the ingenuous use of false testimony, there should be a line drawn between the new evidence and false testimony that leads to wrongful conviction. When it comes to the challenges associated with wrongful convictions, we have to identify a way to stabilize the relationship between the defendant’s and administration’s interests (Zalman, 2014). The consequent accuracy of the verdict will either signal the prevalence of unfairness by means of wrongful conviction or assist the defendant in overcoming the barriers inherent in the existing criminal justice system of the United States.

The Impact of the Policy on Social Justice

The effect of the author’s recommendations on social justice can be characterized as a reduced occurrence of perjury inherent in the wrongful conviction cases. Even though the forgery of testimonies receives a lot of attention, this issue is still one of the key contributors to the overall number of wrongful convictions. Reforming the criminal justice apparatus should become one of the top priorities of the current government due to the irreducible occurrence of police misconduct and subsequent wrongful convictions. It is safe to say that wrongful convictions are directly dependent on the attitudes of police officers and their probable misconduct.

The key problem, in this case, consists in the fact that the individuals that were wrongfully convicted due to police misconduct are more at risk of being exposed to the adverse limitations of the existing criminal justice system (Mallicoat, 2016). For instance, the evidence shows that such convictions are not prevalent and they are rather trivial if compared to the cases that involved the DNA exoneration or any other cases that are similar to those mentioned above. Wrongful convictions that are connected to police misconduct usually revolve around guns, drugs, resisting arrest, or belligerent behavior aimed at the police officers (Kent & Carmichael, 2015). There is an incalculable number of people who were wrongfully convicted on the basis of such indictments. We may not know the percentage of those actually innocent individuals that were wrongfully convicted, but it is evident that police misconduct gives rise to wrongful convictions.

References

Covey, R. (2013). Police misconduct as a cause of wrongful convictions. Washington University Law Review, 90(4), 1133-1189.

Cutler, B. L. (2012). Conviction of the innocent: Lessons from psychological research. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Garoupa, N., & Rizzolli, M. (2012). Wrongful convictions do lower deterrence. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 168(2), 224-231.

Huff, C. R. (2013). Wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice: Causes and remedies in North American and European criminal justice systems. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kent, S., & Carmichael, J. (2015). Legislative responses to wrongful conviction: Do partisan principals and advocacy efforts influence state-level criminal justice policy? Social Science Research, 52(2), 147-160.

Mallicoat, S. (2016). Crime and criminal justice: Concepts and controversies. New York, NY: SAGE.

Marion, N. E., & Oliver, W. (2015). Public policy of crime and criminal justice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Miles, H., & Raynor, P. (2014). Reintegrative justice in practice: The informal management of crime in an island community. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

Siegel, L. J. (2015). Criminology: The core (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Zalman, M. (2014). Wrongful conviction and criminal justice reform: Making justice. New York, NY: Routledge.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Criminal Justice Policy in Action." September 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/criminal-justice-policy-in-action/.

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