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Build a Criminal Justice Policy for Terrorism

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 6 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 781-790
Gary LaFree; James Hendrickson
Date Published
November 2007
10 pages
This essay identifies and discusses the advantages of using a criminal justice (criminology) approach to fighting terrorism, in contrast to giving counterterrorism the status of a war between nations based on a military response.
There are four ways that criminology and criminal justice can directly assist in the fight against terrorism. First, criminology can contribute to understanding the best practices for processing those who commit terrorist acts. Second, criminology can have a major role in researching the etiology of terrorist behavior. Third, criminological research methods can be significant in developing an understanding of both the etiology of terrorist behavior and the legal processing of those accused of terrorist behavior. Fourth, criminal justice approaches have contributed significantly to the identification, capture, and incapacitation of those who use terrorist methods. In addition to these four ways in which criminology and criminal justice directly assist in the response to criminal terrorist acts, there are four indirect advantages. First, a criminal justice approach targets individual criminals responsible for specific criminal acts. This contrasts with war, which focuses on controlling territories or countries, resulting in large-scale destruction and the suffering and death of innocent persons. Second, criminal justice approaches are more specific than war in defining the criminal nature of the acts committed and the individuals responsible. Third, criminal justice approaches view crime as an ongoing aspect of human behavior that requires continued vigilance and targeted responses; whereas, war seeks the relatively rapid termination of an enemy that ends at some point, an unrealistic expectation regarding terrorism. Fourth, compared with military approaches, criminal justice approaches have more built-in limitations and safeguards that prevent encroachments on civil liberties for those accused of crimes as well as the public in general. 32 references