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Justice Miscarriages Negative Impacts on Individuals and Society Essay

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Updated: May 6th, 2022

Introduction

Media plays a greater role in influencing people’s opinions about crime. The media have borne the brunt of a love-hate relationship with the populace as it has been criticized for either overstating or misrepresenting crime-related issues. It has been accused of biased and skewed reporting that impacts negatively on perception dispensation of justice. Others have always harbored a belief that the information that comes from the criminal justice system is always accurate. The question that pundits have always kept asking is ‘What if the information is false or What if what is perceived to be a dispensation of justice is indeed a miscarriage of justice?’ What might the public make of the justice system if such revelations were made? The available literature on the impacts of miscarriages of justice on individuals touches on psycho-material consequences on the victim and his or her family members. Social harms that accompany miscarriage of justice have also enjoyed considerable publicity. Individuals have suffered untold pain when they get punished for a crime they never committed. Many innocent people have entered the guilty plea just to spare their families the pain of having to spend more money in pursuit of justice. Individuals who have been wrongly convicted have gone through devastating traumatic experiences that cannot hitherto be undone by mere exoneration. After being acquitted, such people have had to contend with psychological problems not limited to personality changes and drug abuse. Wrongful conviction has enabled the actual perpetrators of crime to walk free. In such instances, the credibility of the institutions that are charged with the dispensation of justice has been brought into disrepute. This paper will focus on the negative impacts of a miscarriage of justice on individuals and society in general.

Individuals and Public Consequences

A number of victims of wrongful convictions normally appeal their cases. This causes untold suffering to the victims and their families because of the finances involved. Some have successfully managed to sue the state and subsequently compensated. However, this is not something to celebrate because it is the taxpayer’s money that is used in compensation. Such money can be used on some socially productive projects. A more serious social cost that accompanies miscarriage of justice is the loss of public trust in the criminal justice system. This is a cost that cannot be easily computed. Such notions may impact negatively on victims of wrongful conviction, members of minority races, and the poor. Some racial minorities in the United States have instead chosen to refer to the justice system as ‘just-us’ system. This suggests how cynical the citizens can perceive the justice system. Minority races have always had a belief that some judges hand down punitive judgments on them even if the crimes they committed do not warrant such long sentences. Black defenders have always alluded to higher rates of death sentencing being handed down on them by white judicial officers.

Even though proceedings into certain crimes are normally private, it reaches a point in time that they become some sort of public knowledge. The perceived perpetrators of such crimes become known to many. When such people are tried and found not to be guilty, the period between trial and correction of wrongful arrest, the public has formed an opinion-false belief, about the person and the occurrence of the crime. This is a cultural consequence of miscarriage of justice that has not been widely studied. Such victims’ family, friends, and family members find it very difficult to endow the trust they initially had in such victims even if they are exonerated of the crime. However, the consequences of their wrongful conviction do not extend to the immediate public. If such criminal proceedings received a lot of media coverage, it is possible that even if such victims are cleared of the crimes they were charged with, the public will still think that they are criminals. Pursuant to the nature of the crime committed, the news-consuming public may falsely believe that certain crimes do occur. The prevalence of certain crimes and people who commit them may also be brought into focus. It is imperative to note that people’s understanding of crime is socially constructed. The media has been accused of biasness. However, the skewness in their reporting is largely influenced by false information that the justice system disseminates. The media reporting about criminal proceedings informs the public fret of crime and their perception of causes of criminal behavior (Cole, 2009). They also get to know how crime-related issues can be mitigated. The media educates the public on emerging forms of crime. Crime policy is largely influenced by the way the public perceives crime. Miscarriage of justice in Cases that were dealing with sexual abuse in the ’80s and ’90s were largely influenced by moral panic. It later emerged that prosecution of individuals who were thought to have masterminded ritual sexual abuse of children was a case of miscarried justice. The individuals were thought to have been wrongfully convicted. The belief that such an activity was indeed taking place was perceived to be false and overstated because of the widespread attention that it indeed received. The period of time when these crimes were thought to have been committed is referred to as ‘witch-hunt’. The prosecution’s major undoing was their resolve to engage in suggestive questioning of the victims and the ‘repressed memories’ as put by clinical psychologists. Despite the fact that many of those who were charged of such abuses have been released, it is worth noting that they have been subjected to untold suffering for crime some of them did not commit. Because of the international attention that it received, it would be futile for the convicts who have been released to start clearing their names because the public had already formed their opinion.

Conclusion

Wrongful conviction subjects victims to psychological problems, financial constraints, incalculable social costs, and burden on the burdened tax-payers.

Reference

Cole, S.A., 2009, Cultural Consequences of Miscarriages of Justice. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, Vol.27, pp. 431–449.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Justice Miscarriages Negative Impacts on Individuals and Society." May 6, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/justice-miscarriages-negative-impacts-on-individuals-and-society/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Justice Miscarriages Negative Impacts on Individuals and Society'. 6 May.

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