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Fighting Crime in a Crumbling System (From Criminal Justice in America: Theory, Practice, and Policy, P 166-192, 1996, Barry W Hancock and Paul M Sharp, eds. -- See NCJ-160206)

NCJ Number
S Brill
Date Published
27 pages
This chapter traces the processing of cases in a New York City prosecutors' office to show how court delays, inefficiency, and a poorly managed system make the swift administration of justice impossible.
The failure of the criminal justice system lies in its failure to provide corrections programs and policies that result in long-term incapacitation for dangerous offenders and rehabilitation for those amenable to treatment; the failure also lies in a poorly administered court system that does not operate rationally and efficiently. None of the punishment schemes will work if criminal justice professionals do not make the system work. The courts should view themselves as munitions factories operating in war time. For such factories, priority is given to the securing of competent managers and committed employees willing to work overtime when a crisis demands it. The courts should be operated by competent managers and accountable, competent judges. Court officers, judges, prosecutors and legal aid lawyers should be willing to work 10 hours a day if need be at the same wage. The urban crisis in law enforcement requires that the personnel in urban criminal justice systems be among the best and the brightest. The securing of such personnel could be achieved by requiring all lawyers coming out of law school to help solve the crisis. They could be required to work 2 or 3 years in either a legal aid office or in an assistant district attorney's office in a city in the State where they want to practice. The personnel gained from these public service criminal justice internships, which would be akin to the below-wage, forced training and work of medical interns, could be used to operate the courts on extended schedules. If change is to occur both in the courts and in society, those in positions of leadership and those employed by the system must view the country, particularly urban areas, as being in a crisis analogous to a war. Under this mindset, work ethics and attitudes will change and problems will be addressed with a new intensity and creativity. Questions for discussion and suggested student applications of chapter material


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