From Policing to Parole: Reconfiguring American Criminal Justice
Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Volume 46 (2017 Forthcoming)
20 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2016
Date Written: October 23, 2016
American criminal justice has deteriorated in almost every respect in the past 40 years. Overcriminalization is more common and mens rea requirements are lower. Procedural protections against wrongful conviction are weaker. Many police are demoralized and alienated from the communities they serve and lack legitimacy in the eyes of many citizens. Prosecutors have displaced judges in sentencing and routinely abuse their powers to coerce guilty pleas. Mandatory minimum and similar sentencing laws force judges to choose between imposing unjustly severe punishments and circumventing applicable laws. Prisons are overcrowded, often brutalizing and inhumane, and lack resources needed to provide essential services. Community corrections agencies are overwhelmed by caseloads and inadequately funded to help offenders live law-abiding lives. Parole agencies are loath to release eligible inmates and quick to revoke parole. Evidence-based means exist to make major improvements in every facet of American criminal justice. What has been lacking is the political will to use them.
Keywords: police legitimacy, prosecutorial abuses, parole release, community corrections, sentencing reform, drug control, mental health treatment
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