Today, in the United States, the diminishing crime rates have created an erroneous perception among state legislatures, key public policy figures, and mainstream commentators that crime and the administration of the criminal justice system are no longer urgent and important themes for public policy debates and discourse (Yearwood, 2009), resulting in significant budget cuts over the years for a department that is considered critical in the maintenance of law and order (American Bar Association, 2008).
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In light of this erroneous perception, the state legislature is currently considering reducing by 50 percent all funding for community policing, drug courts, prison treatment programs, and other programs that are fundamental to the effective administration of the criminal justice system. This proposal should be shelved as it will jeopardize the department’s ability to operate effectively and efficiently, and to meet the fundamental aims of the criminal justice system.
It should be noted that “while criminal justice funding has dropped, the workload or activity of the system has risen; a rise that has been dramatic in several areas” (Yearwood, 2009 p. 674). For instance, adult and juvenile arrests have grown significantly in the last couple of years due to community policing programs, resulting in substantial reductions in criminal activities in society (Yearwood, 2009). Implementing budget cuts for community policing programs will not only reverse the gains already made in keeping crime levels down but also adversely affect the morale of law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime due to diminishing resources.
In the same vein, the growing need for effective prison treatment programs for offenders has necessitated the criminal justice administration to apportion a substantial budget to these programs particularly on account of their viability in reducing recidivism rates and ensuring that offenders are successfully reintegrated back into society as responsible citizens after completing their prison terms (Worrall, 2010). Any attempt to underfund these programs will have multiple negative effects as recidivism will certainly rise and prisoner reintegration will be difficult to achieve, resulting in increased crime levels within the communities and a clogged criminal justice system.
Additionally, it is enviable to note that drug courts have served as an effective tool in the fight against the trafficking and abuse of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Since the introduction of drug courts in the American justice system, many drug dealers have been removed from the streets, crime levels have certainly declined, and many lives have been saved from the self-destructive behaviors initiated by drugs (Worrall, 2010). However, a reduction in funding will have far-reaching ramifications in the department’s capacity to fight the drug lords by effectively shutting down numerous programs and operations that have already been put in place to ensure the streets are free from drugs and crime.
The consequences of underfunding the criminal justice system have been well documented in the literature. In many American states, criminal justice personnel is in real danger of burnout due to budget cuts, while client files have been reported missing as management staff engages in doing clerical tasks due to serious funding deficits (White, 2009). Such a predisposition only compromises the rule of law and hinders consistency, predictability, dependability, steadiness, and equal access to justice, implying that all the hallmarks of the criminal justice system are sacrificed by budgetary constraints (Zack, 2012).
Ultimately, therefore, the immediate task for the state legislature should be to come up with ways and strategies that could be used to reinforce substantial budgetary allocations to the criminal justice department rather than constraining funding. The social and moral fabric of the society is firmly predicated upon the effective and efficient operations of the criminal justice system (Edmon, 2012), hence the need to ensure that funding for this department is not compromised.
American Bar Association. (2008). Criminal justice system improvements. Web.
Edmon, L.S. (2012). Keeping courtrooms open in times of steep budget cuts. Judges Journal, 51(1), 18-21.
White, J.G. (2009). Court funding – A good first step. Florida Bar Journal, 83(3), 6-8.
Worrall, J.L. (2010). Do federal law enforcement grants reduce serious crime? Criminal Justice Policy Review, 21(4), 459-475.
Yearwood, D.L. (2009). Criminal justice funding in North Carolina: A system in crisis. Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Services, 1(3), 672-686. Web.
Zack, S.N. (2012). Financial crisis and the rule of law. Judges Journal, 51(1), 14-15.