SO 220 - Chapter 9: The Criminal Justice System

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The Canadian Criminal Justice System (CJS)

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The Canadian Criminal Justice System (CJS)

  • A formal system of social control

  • Network organizations including the police, courts, and corrections involved in law enforcement and administration of justice

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5 components of the CJS

  • Laws and law-making (government legislation)

  • Policing and enforcement

  • Criminal court system

  • Corrections

  • Release and re-entry into society

    • Important for reducing re-offending

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History of the CJS

  • Created to address and control what we call “public evil”

    • Linked to ideas of social disorder and harm

    • How do we protect society?

  • Based on the British system

  • System is directed towards maintaining public order

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6 Tenants of the Justice System

  • Justice for people who have been harmed

  • Deterrence

    • Does imprisonment stop people from committing crimes?

  • Punishment

  • Public protection

  • Public rehabilitation

    • Becoming more important with young people

    • Looking at the root causes that lead someone into jail is the best way to protect society

  • Reintegration into society

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  • Police have discretion which leads to different stop and arrest rates for different groups

  • They determine if a crime has occurred and to arrest someone

  • Community policing

    • Integrating officers into community problem solving

  • They used to be seen as the arm of the government

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Police discretion: legal factors

  • Seriousness of the offence

    • Particularly with young people

  • Arrest records

  • Prior police contact

    • Doesn’t necessarily mean they have been in the system

    • Previous contact could have been as a victim

  • Prior convictions

  • Those who breach a probation order

  • Rules of the Criminal Code

    • Does define some instances where police have to respond in a certain way

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Police discretion: extralegal (social) factors

  • The social positioning of individuals

    • Certain neighbourhoods, race

  • Demeanor

    • A suspect’s behaviour, attitude, and appearance determines the outcome

    • May lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of interactions with police

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Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Principles of Policing

  1. Prevent crime and disorder

  2. Recognize that power of policing depends on public approval

  3. Recognize public approval and cooperation are linked

  4. Recognize when public cooperation is secured, the need for force is reduced

  5. Must demonstrate impartial service to the law

  6. Force is a last resort

  7. Police are part of the public community and vice versa

  8. Strict adherence to executive functions

  9. The reduction of crime and disorder is a test of efficiency

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Community policing

  • Key focus is prevention, intervention, and crime/harm reduction

    • These are ways of bringing police into the community

  • Social system tapestry

    • Police organizations are influenced by the social environment and have an interdependent relationship with other systems

  • Public attitudes towards “tough on crime” vs “soft on crime” practices influence the work of policing

  • Rethinking the “thin blue line” idea

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Policing in Canada

  • Standards of community policing

  1. Growing reliance on “community based crime prevention” through education, neighbourhood watch, etc.

  2. Reorientation of patrol from emergency response to proactive policies

  3. Increased police accountability

  4. Decentralization of command and authority which allows more discretion

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Police culture (Tator and Henry 2006)

  • Police exist within the dominant culture as a subculture

    • Problems in society are reflected in police departments

  • Police organizational culture is not monolithic

    • There is a lot of diversity

  • Police are increasingly responsible to many other organizations

    • As police move back towards the government, they’re less involved in the community

  • The relationship between the police and the public is complicated

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Police culture

  • It is insular and perpetuates itself

  • Criminal profiling as a police practice can lead to other concerns

  • Socialization into the culture leaves little room for question or dissent

  • Social isolation is one of the main features of police culture as police view themselves as outsiders

    • They trust neither the public they serve nor the managers that oversee them

    • Young recruits tend to have a degree beforehand and have new/different ideas, but then they enter a culture where those ideas are disagreed with

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The result of police culture

  • “Protect yourself”

  • Solidarity

    • Going against higher officers is strongly discouraged

  • Happens globally

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The Justice System - Courts

  • Courts have discretion, but are overloaded

    • Prosecutors will only charge someone if they think they can win the case

  • Inherently an adversarial/accusatorial process

    • The goal is to find and present facts

    • Mainly to get the jury on your side rather than wholly present the truth

  • The place where laws are interpreted and enacted

  • Courts can only hold a small number of cases at a time

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  • Sentence reduction for a guilty plea

  • Can be an oppressive or inadequate sentence

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Jury trials

  • The law entitles those charged with an offence for which they can receive imprisonment for longer than 5 years a jury trial

  • Citizens have the duty to serve on a jury

  • Two kinds of challenges can be brought against a potential juror

    • A preemptory challenge (no reason)

    • A challenge for cause (potential for bias)

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  • Happens after conviction

  • Formally referred to as dispositions

    • Various kinds outlined in the Criminal Code

  • While they are prescriptive in terms of a response to conviction, there are a few questions that go along with them

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Questions around sentencing

  • What is the goal of sentencing?

    • Punishment? Protection of society? Justice to the victim?

  • How do we weight punishment?

  • What does proportionality mean?

  • Should judges have judicial discretion?

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Principles of sentencing

  • To denounce awful conduct

  • To deter the offender and other persons from committing offences

  • To seperate offenders from society where necessary

  • To assist in rehabilitating offenders

  • To provide reparations for harm done

  • Promote a sense of responsibility in offenders

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Restorative justice

  • Focuses on reparing the harm caused by crime by holding moderated meetings of victims, offenders, and other affected by crime, which can be used at different sites in the justice system

  • Can be a diversion from court, a pre-sentencing option, and after release from prison

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Self-fulfilling prophecy and policing

People who have a negative perception of the police are more likely to have a negative interaction with them, which may lead to harsher punishment

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Durlauf and Nagin’s 2011 review of research (Prison as a deterrent?)

  • Longer prison sentences harm the individual and society

  • Imprisonment may increase the rates of reoffending

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Sykes 1996 (Prison as a deterrent?)

  • Long-term prisoners suffer a loss of individuality/ownership

  • Experience other losses

  • This increases people’s likelihood to reoffend

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