This paper presents an outline for implementing a systems-oriented approach to known errors and misses in the criminal justice system.
This paper examines the need for implementing a systems-oriented approach to known errors and misses in the criminal justice system. This approach treats errors as sentinel events that can be studied and used in quality improvement efforts. The paper begins with a discussion of exoneration efforts that occurred following publication of a U.S. Department of Justice report detailing the number of cases of wrongful convictions that had been overturned through the use of DNA evidence. This is followed by a discussion on how contemporary medicine's efforts to reform patient safety can be emulated in the criminal justice system. Analysis of medical mistakes indicated that these mistakes were not made just by individuals, such as nurses and doctors, but that they occurred as a result of problems with the system as a whole. The article draws a parallel between reform efforts in medicine and efforts to improve the criminal justice system's response to recognizing and dealing with errors and mistakes. The use of a single-cause approach for dealing with errors, the system currently used in criminal justice, results in errors and mistakes being overlooked or ignored, thus negatively impacting reform efforts. The paper argues that implementing a systems-oriented approach to identifying and dealing with errors in the criminal justice process will lead to continued improvements and a greater degree of reliability within the criminal justice system. References
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Ideas in American Policing, No. 14