Criminal Justice Theory in Practice
It is fair to say that the criminal justice system is not always one hundred percent accurate when ruling out convictions. Over the past years, there have been several exonerations to free people who had been wrongly convicted. In the year 2018 alone, the Innocence Project was able to help 17 wrongly convicted individuals to gain their freedom after serving a total of 215 years (Innocence Project, 2018). Among them, Malcolm Alexander, who had been incarcerated at Louisiana’s Angola prison since 1980. He was wrongly identified by a rape victim and the evidence of the crime destroyed shortly after the trial. It was years later when new evidence was found, and a DNA test conducted was able to exclude Malcolm from the offense after serving 38-years in prison. All this would have been avoided if the witness/victim was evaluated properly when giving their testimony.
One of the ways to determine the credibility of eyewitness testimony includes the use of double-blind lineups. This is where both the victim and the administering officer are not aware of the suspects being brought in. It gives the witness a chance to view all suspects at once and then view them one at a time. It also aids in collecting confidence statements from the witness after the identification process. Unethical conduct among police or prosecutors may lead to the destruction of evidence, which is illegal. Police officers and prosecutors who engage in the destruction of evidence are punishable by imprisonment or formal probation. The criminal justice system can also increase the reliability of scientific evidence, such as DNA, by setting quality assurance parameters (Shaer, 2016). Laboratories that handle DNA forensics should be vetted and given strict policies to work under. Such measures will surely help reduce wrongful convictions while at the same time, exonerating innocently incarcerated individuals.
Offender classification is often conducted under social, psychological, and biological backgrounds, as well as education. The same factors influence both true/false positives and false negatives, which are termed as prediction errors (Laws, 2020). False positives are errors whereby a prediction on an offender committing new crimes turns out wrong. This leads to the offenders being subjected to incarceration regardless of facts that prove their unlikeliness to indulge in further crime. On the other hand, false negatives take place when offenders are perceived to refrain from more crimes. In the long run, they commit crimes since they had no imposed restrictions.
True positive shows that the predictions made were reliable. The criminal justice system is aware that they cannot be error-free; hence they rely on the psychological, social, biological, and educational backgrounds to minimize the frequency of the errors. Psychological and biological factors are based on the individual’s mental history to evaluate any present patterns that may help with the judgment. Social factors rely on the perceptions of the society on the crime that has been committed (Laws, 2020). Some crimes such as murder or aggravated assault are perceived negatively by society; hence such an individual may face harsher punishment.
Education can also help determine an offender’s fate as different levels of education are perceived to establish the rule passed by the jury. Background checks are also conducted on individuals’ understanding of the community they are from and the state of their family. None of these factors may influence true/false positives and false negatives alone (Laws, 2020). The criminal justice system has to consider all or most to be able to make a reliable judgment.
Berk, R., Heidari, H., Jabbari, S., Kearns, M., & Roth, A. (2018). Fairness in criminal justice homework assignment risk assessments: The state of the art. Sociological Methods & Research, 0049124118782533.
Innocence Project. (2018). 2018: A record year in exonerations. Retrieved from https://www.innocenceproject.org/justice-2018/
Laws, D. R. (2020). Offender Classification and Registration. In A History of the Assessment of Sex Offenders: 1830–2020. Emerald Publishing Limited.