Flawed Criminal Justice System in the United States

Last Updated: 07 Dec 2022
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The Criminal Justice System of the country is under scrutiny as many researchers believe the inadequacy of the system to punish law offenders. Ideally, the justice system is there to defend society from its own people who violate specific laws that govern social order and peace.

But it has been criticized for much other reason. One of which is that the criminal justice system is integrally corrupt and flawed.

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One major flaw of the criminal justice system in the country is that it demands a category of financial capability, or else you can get out of jail. It is very easy to get out of your term in jail. If one can afford the bail, then less time in prison will be charged. The more money one has, the less time he or she has to stay in prison to avail of the crime he committed. Such is the case of many prominent and influential families in the country.

But judging from statistics, many people convicted with crimes are more or less poor to afford the standardized bail in the justice courts. Judge who process the hearings are also a major factor in determining how much would one criminal pay to get out of jail, and if one person is lucky, the judge may sympathized with his/her situation in terms of his/her finances, and bail conditions are much less than the average. This is one of the major flaws in the criminal justice system, money matters.

“You can get a person out of the ghetto, but you can not remove the ghetto out of him”. The aphorism mentions how much the environment one person lives affects his behaviour towards society and the people. Another problem criticized in the criminal justice system is the increasing recidivism rate of prisoners in the country. This explains former criminals not just going to jail once, but gets arrested for either the same crime or a new one.

The question that remains is whether the criminals are punished enough for the crimes committed, becomes reality persists that criminals return to prison after some time. As cited in Scott (2004) study, about 1500 men in the Chicago metropolitan alone returns to their communities each month.

The ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system to rehabilitate the ex-convicts into leading a more productive and moral life is being questioned. There are about 44 percent of ex-prisoners rearrested after being released from prison and that says how much inadequate the penalties for law offenders in the country.

There are many factors contributing to the rising number of criminals every year, majority of which due to the influence brought about by drugs and the selling and retailing of drugs.

As mentioned by Henslin, there is the prevailing “medicalization of human problems” caused by several “mood elevators” such as alcohol, drugs, nicotine and marijuana. Using these drugs has serious effects on the user, and thus actions are affected primarily with each use. From the use of different drugs arise many other consequences that contribute to the alarming rate of criminal acts in the country.

Henslin suggested that in order to “rehabilitate” these offenders with such influence from drugs, the society must entail the conscious effort to restrict the influence of the drugs and evoke a sense of acceptance without any punishment or even treatment of punishment to criminals. In the sense, what he is implying is that society must not react with such incidents with harsh punishments, otherwise, offenders will not learn.

But the rule of law applies to every individual and the state must protect each citizen for each account of violation, if the suggested action is more participatory and society-oriented, that is permitted given that punishment is also given to offenders.

The system only dictates its role as the primary body which governs all action against criminal offenders, but there also arise the role of the communities and other people involve modifying the system and putting a human touch in the rehabilitation process of the offender.

Yes, the suggestion is definitive of what the system needs in terms of more action from the society and how society shall respond, but the law must still be applied because it is the only way to govern peace and order in the society.

As mentioned, many researchers have proposed a more socially-oriented way to improve the justice system in the country. Human intervention between rehabilitation groups must exist to support the need for self rehabilitation of offenders. In such suggestions, it also implies the society to immediately relieve all influences in the media, society and community of possible sources of influence such as alcohol commercial and advertisements.

That will be very effective if the people in communities themselves adopt the role in which they will take part in rehabilitating these offenders. There must be support groups which aim to assist the offenders in a more righteous path. The criminal justice system must think of more innovative ways to relive the system of increasing recidivism of offenders.

Social policy also contributes to the problems in the criminal justice system. The justice system is concerned with major drug use, but as the readings entails, from a medical standpoint, all drugs are considered harmful when taken in excess. The society and the justice system must specify the definition of these terms in order to devise a more distinct approach in solving the problem with drugs.

Another approach taken into consideration in remedy of the flawed criminal justice system is the “get-tough policy”. This is in contrast with the approach presented earlier that involves the society and the community in rehabilitating offenders. The get-tough policy entails a more rigorous and strict pursuit of offenders in the society. More harsh punishments that will evoke a sense of restriction to anybody who attempts to do harm.

There is nothing wrong with the policy because there is the sense of responsibility given by the authority and the state in protecting the welfare of the people. But somehow, it questions that extent of this policy in terms of human rights.

Or how harsh is the state going to be in punishing offenders? These questions are answered with the right attitude and concise definition of the policies that will be implemented under the rule of law.

Administrative Justice

Due process model advocates that an individual cannot be denied life, liberty, or property in the absence of legal safeguards and procedures. The rights of individuals charged with crimes ought to be safeguarded by the criminal justice system.

Arrestees are treated as innocent until proven otherwise by a court of law. Policing is paramount to the maintenance of justice within society. The primary objective of criminal justice is to facilitate due process and basic legal fairness.

The Bill of Rights advocates for defendants’ rights protection and hence this model emphasizes the same (http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/CliffsReviewTopic/Which-Model-Crime-Control-or-Due-Process.topicArticleId-10065,articleId-9911.html)

Due process model holds that police powers ought to be curtailed to prevent official oppression of citizens. The model stresses the possibility of errors in police informal, non-judgmental investigations.  Criminal justice dispensers should be accountable to procedures, regulations and guidelines to facilitate consistency and justice in the justice system.

Criminal justice procedures are viewed as obstruction processes comprised of a succession of impediments in form of procedural defenses that protect the factually innocent in the same way they convict the factually guilty. It is advocated that an individual should be declared guilty only if legal processes are adhered to but not merely based on facts.

Due process notes that people’s memories are notoriously poor as regards disturbing happenings. Highly emotional contexts will likely lead to inaccurate recollections. Confessions by individuals in police custody will more likely yield information that is distorted to favor what the person thinks the authorities prefer to hear.

The truth is thus shielded. The model thus advocates for public hearing of a case by an impartial tribunal and rulings made only after the accused has had a chance to defend themselves (Shanahan, 1977, p.376).

Crime control perspective assumes total reliability of police informal investigations and views arrestees as already guilty and liable to government punishment. The ability of analytical and prosecutorial agencies to produce and reconstruct a bearably precise account of what really transpired is given much weight.

Arresting of suspects is viewed to be negative in that it drags the criminal justice system. The model holds that the suppression of crime should be the most paramount aspect of criminal justice since order is crucial in a free society. Safeguarding the rights of victims takes precedence over protecting the rights of defendants.

The police ought to be granted more powers to facilitate investigation, searches, arrests, seizing and conviction of suspects. Legal hindrances that restrict police activities ought to be done away with (Shanahan, 1977, p.377).

The failure of law enforcement agencies to tightly control crime is viewed to result in breakdown of social order thus eliminating a crucial aspect of freedom. A generalized disregard of lawful controls crops up if  there is a wide perception of elevated failure to arrest and convict offenders.  The civil individual then suffers from illegal invasions on his welfare and high insecurity.

The crime control viewpoint proposes that criminal justice procedures should be swiftly and efficiently executed and disposed off. Arrested suspects are presumed guilty since this model highly rates the reliability of police investigations reports. The primary objective of criminal justice system is to find out the truth or to realistically determine the guilt of the accused.

Crime control model signifies conservative values while the due process model reflects liberal values. Assessment of values is required so as to prove one model superior to the other. The policy to be applied depends on the prevailing political environment. due process policies predominated the liberal 1960s whereas conservatism 1970s and early 20th century were characterized by crime control model.

The concept of equality has gained popularity as the basis for agitating for implementation of the due process model. The existence of gross inequalities occasioned by financial means of defendants calls for mobilization of resources to shield the accused to prevent their denial of credible defense. The due process model is thus evidently the approach that is likely to be popular in future (Oliver, 2008, p.135).


Criminal justice: Which model? Crime control or due process –cliff notes. Retrieved on 28th February 2009 from http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/CliffsReviewTopic/Which-Model-Crime-Control-or-Due-Process.topicArticleId-10065,articleId-9911.html.

Oliver, W. M. (2008). Catholic perspectives on crime and criminal justice. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Lexington Books.

Shanahan, D (1977). The Administration of Justice: An Introduction. London: Routledge

Media Portrayals of Criminal Justice System

A limited number of people have interaction with or are having the real experience of what and how the criminal justice system works. This is because majority of our ideas are generally drawn from the various forms of mass media – news, television, movies, and print media. Generally, all media forms show a very positive representation of the attainment and honesty of the criminal justice system.  The media helps to mold the mental positions and impressions of the society. It also assists in shaping the public's perceptions regarding criminals, crime, and justice, as well as the people within the system. In fact, the media is a vital source of details and an effective tool of shaping one’s views on the criminal justice system.

For the reasons that media builds a social reality, creates a public's plan of action, and designs the government's response toward crime and justice, suggest that there is a complicated interaction between media portrayals of crime itself and the criminal justice system in general.

Broadcast and Print News Portrayals

An article by Shannon Petersen suggests that modern broadcast and print media portrayals of the criminal justice system unveil greatly about journalism. Petersen coined this as the yellow journalism due to the significantly and specifically shocking, challenging, and unreliable characteristics of the news it brings. This is also because the characteristics of yellow journalism were evident in news stories in broadcast media (television and radio) and in all the nation's major newspapers (Petersen, 1991).

The article titled “Yellow Justice: Media Portrayal of Criminal Trials in the Progressive Era” also states that newspaper, television, and radio companies were motivated more by the financial gain instead of its justice awareness. This oftentimes led to misleading and inaccurate news reports (Petersen, 1991). Petersen (1991) also noted that yellow journalism was very apparent during industrialization boom of newspapers and broadcasting companies.

The lack of internal restriction regarding the manner and topic to report also contributed to the wide practice of yellow journalism. In fact, Petersen (1991) reported that during the early part of the twentieth century, courts had not yet adopted judicial practices like jury segregation to avoid the presence and eventually limit the influence of media practitioners in the courtroom.

Lastly, Petersen (1991) stated that media portrayals of the judicial trials in the early twentieth century promote more about an advance era of the society. For instance, even a credible newspaper such as the New York Times was tainted when it published a report which showed racism and sexism (Petersen, 1991). This is because the report strengthened tendencies in the society and the criminal justice system.

Newspaper and broadcast reports which sensationalized the criminal justice system are stories which deal with racial and gender stereotypes, bigamy, divorce and traffic violations (Petersen, 1991). According to Pterson (1991), these articles display a knowledgeable skepticism of the ability of the society to refuse the power of the media. Surprisingly, they even show the public's willingness to sacrifice the freedom of the press in the name of justice (Petersen, 1991).

Television Portrayals

Altheide (1985), Gerbner and Gross (1976), and Gerbner (1993) presented a great relation between heavy television screening and the socialization of television-prejudiced ideas of reality (cited in McNeely, 1995). According to McNeely (1995), there is a significant involvement and study addressing the concern on violence on television and its influences on the viewers. A large number of works focuses on the issue of whether or not television portrayals of crime and violence have an effect to the viewing population on the aspect of engendering, rather than simply attesting similar mental positions and human conducts.

McNeely (1995) suggested that television programs should be utilized to ascertain public images of the criminal justice system itself and how those images might or might not change the knowledge, perspective, and basic understanding of the judicial system and its operation. He added that those said images and impressions can be compared with "reality" in order to add to one's understanding of the criminal law and social interaction (cited in McNeely, 1995).

McNeely (1995), however, clarified that with television portrayals, people might expect to find a comparative match and an increasing level of influence on public notion of the criminal justice system. A growing level of television viewed by the "postmodern" individual may result in more television-defined public perspectives of criminal justice and law enforcement. McNeely (1995) added that the suggested research, aside from being distinctly absorbing and suggestive, can lead to a somewhat different and persuasive examination of the interaction between the public and judicial system especially in terms of their interactive investigation. This is because of their significant abstract and experimental implications for related studies of the tradition, government, and the criminal justice studies in general (cited in McNeely, 1995).

Movie Portrayals

In his presentation of the movie portrayals of the criminal justice system, Myers (2006) said that movies reflect some realities about the judicial system regardless of the agreement of their screenplays to Hollywood's commercial mood. The movies shine an unflattering light on the justice system and which gives encouragement to its viewers. The movies tend to illustrate that the justice system is not essentially interested in finding the truth, despite the fact that seeking the truth is a necessary aspect of the crime victims' sense of justice (Myers, 2006).

A lot of movie portrayals are critiques of the criminal justice system. Most of them show how the current system lacks in providing true justice to crime victims. This is because in movies, many crime victims and proponents of the legal system participants must resort to their personal and more risky manners of seeking justice for the crimes committed against them or their love ones. This is where the judicial practice fails which the movies apparently portray.

First, it does not provide enough resources or counseling to victims that have suffered from the crime. Second, the criminal justice system legal system does not adapt the appropriate punishment for crime suspects. While the court is still wondering whether law is a reflection of the public or simply impacts the perspective of the people, there is no doubt that the justice system, with all its strengths and weaknesses, is portrayed most dramatically and largely on the silver screen.

The various media portrayals of the criminal justice system as presented in this paper have true and important impacts on the behavior of the public and the society. By knowing and understanding the ineffectiveness of the justice system as portrayed by the media, people can become more decisive consumers of media images.

The various media forms are in the business of affecting how and what people think of the criminal justice system. Nowadays, it is quite hard to believe that people can just ignore everything they perceive in the media because the portrayals presented are not literally correct or because they are loosely staged models of reality.

Although most people understand that what they are seeing in media is not a depiction of "real events," the persuasive and powerful presentations of media have somehow affected how the human mind works. In order for a portrayal to be efficient, the audience must, in some way, identify with the characters and what they are doing, even if some aspects of the situation are "unrealistic." This is where the media proves to be effective in presenting the true facet of the criminal justice system.


McNeely, C. (1995). Perceptions of the Criminal Justice System: Television Imagery and            Public Knowledge in the United States. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular            Culture, 3(1), 1-20.

Myers, R. (2006). Movies About the Legal System and the Portrayal of Crime Victims. Fordham Law Forum on Law, Culture & Society. Retrieved February 5, 2008 from   Fordham Law and Culture Database.

Petersen, S. (1999). Yellow Justice: Media Portrayal of Criminal Trials in the Progressive

Era. Stanford Journal of Legal Studies, 1, 72.

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Flawed Criminal Justice System in the United States. (2016, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/flawed-criminal-justice-system-in-the-united-states/

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