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Law and Disorder - Criminal Justice in America

NCJ Number
B Jackson
Date Published
233 pages
This analysis of the United States criminal justice system argues that decisions made by criminal justice agencies regarding their activities have little to do with the organizations' efficiency in controlling crime and even less to do with how well or badly the public is protected.
Criminal justice agencies are viewed as reactive and competing bureaucracies linked only by the common need to process caseloads efficiently. Interviews, studies, and official reports demonstrate that agencies feel obligated to issue meaningless statistics to prove how busy they are because of public pressure to do 'something' about crime. Criminal courts are portrayed as marketplaces where the only commodity seriously traded is time. In this context, the author discusses juries, court procedures, bail, public defenders, plea bargaining, and prosecutorial discretion. Sentencing disparity, the deterrent effects of prison, recidivism, and the trend toward determinate sentencing are discussed. Concerning corrections, the author argues that recidivism statistics are meaningless in the prison context; moreover, areas where prison administrators are accountable -maintaining order, preventing escape, and staying within budget-- have little relation to correctional program goals such as deterrence and rehabilitation. Finally, the text focuses on criminal justice system reforms within institutionalized bureaucracy. The nature of public service bureaucracies is examined in terms of employees' vested interest in maintaining the status quo, lateral mobility, and responsibility and accountability. Approximately l70 references and an index are supplied.