Term Paper: Business Law Justice at Bat

Pages: 11 (3165 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Not only are minorities who commit murder and other violent crime more likely to be sentenced to death than their White counterparts, but the judicial system is further prejudiced in the case of a minority perpetrating a crime against a non-minority. Recording the results of prosecutions in the first several years after the reinstitution of the death penalty following its abolition by the United States Supreme Court,

During the period of 1973 through 1979, there were 2,484 defendants convicted of voluntary manslaughter or murder, 1,066 of whom formed the "stratified random sample" used in the CSS study. The overall death sentencing rate for the entire 2,484 cases was five percent, or 128 defendants. Unadjusted figures in the Baldus study showed that the death penalty rate for white-victim cases was 108 out of 981, while that for black-victim cases was 20 out of 1,503. Thus, white-victim defendants were sentenced to death at a rate 8.3 times higher than black-victim defendants.

To the rampant discrimination inherent in America's imposition of capital punishment, one can add the most damaging argument of all: that death sentences are no deterrent to the commission of serious and violent crimes.

Some death penalty opponents argued that the penalty actually had a "brutalizing" effect resulting in increased homicides. Such claims were supported by the research of Bowers and Pierce which found that in New York, from 1907-1963, approximate two additional homicides occurred the year after an execution. (79) Possibly drawing on this study, Senator Nolan explained: "Executions spread violence by signaling that it is acceptable to kill."

But if the death penalty does not actually decrease murder rates, does long-term incarceration prove any more of a deterrent?

Caught up in the continuing and strident debate, death penalty opponents argued that no evidence existed to support capital punishment as a possible deterrent. It would have been more precise for them to have said that there is little scientific evidence that capital punishment is a more effective deterrent than long-term imprisonment.

According to the best estimates, such wholesale incarceration of career - or even simply unlucky - criminals would present an enormous burden to society.

The annual cost of keeping an inmate in prison varies widely from state to state, but one authority has said that "a conservative estimate is $25,000 in yearly operating costs per inmate" and a construction cost of $100,000 per cell. Nonetheless, in the past twenty years there has been a massive investment in jails and prisons. State spending on correctional activities increased from $1.3 billion in 1971 to $18 billion in 1988 and the bill continues to grow. By 1990 corrections cost $24.9 billion. The increase in correctional personnel is also startling. In 1980 there were 270,000 correctional officers in the United States. By 1990 there were almost 556,000 correctional personnel in the United States (as well as 225,000 court employees and 117,000 prosecutor employees at a cost of $16.5 billion). In the eighteen years between 1973 and 1991, the United States more than tripled the proportion of its population that was imprisoned. In 1973 there were 93 inmates in U.S. prisons for every 100,000 people. By 1991 that figure was 292, more than three times the rate. In addition to the prison population, jails experienced unprecedented growth. Jails in the United States had a population of 157,000 in 1978; by 1991 the population was more than 426,000. The net result was that there were 1.25 million people behind bars as 1992 began.

Sadly, the American prison population has only increased since the early 1990's, and one must remember that the above figures represent the number of inmates prior to the passage of California's Three Strikes Law. As stated earlier, Three Strikes legislation has been offered as a potential alternative to capital punishment, or at least the ultimate deterrent short of the death penalty. However, the figures speak for themselves: In 1980, California's prisons held 23,511 individuals. In 2000, this same prison system accounted for an astonishing 162,000 persons. Similarly, since the passage of the Three Strikes Law in 1994, more than three thousand six hundred Californians have been handed sentences of twenty-five years to life for petty and nonviolent offenses.

Clearly, both capital punishment, and its lesser cousin, life imprisonment and Three Strikes legislation, represent more an attitude of eliminating individual offenders as opposed to doing anything substantial in so far as the actual prevention of crime. The danger in such thinking is clear. Public impressions of crime, and of violent crime in particular, are so potent, and so nightmarish that the majority of public-spirited citizens are willing to lump together any and all offenders so long as those whom they truly fear are punished appropriately and kept out of society. A similar attitude can be seen creeping into public policy decisions even now, in the aftermath of September 11th. Any suspect individual - no matter how unfounded or petty the reasons for his being suspected might be - is deemed worthy of the same sort of strict detention and denial of rights that, in the past, would ordinarily have been meted out only to persons presenting a genuine and imminent threat. Otherwise level-headed citizens clamor for sweeping changes in the way America handles its judicial systems. A scared public sits by and watches as its Attorney General assumes the personal power to hold other human beings indefinitely and without charge, simply because they might be up to no good, or they might possibly have information that would be of use to the government and to law enforcement. Terrified, literally, we incarcerate, and worse still, execute, those we think might be a danger to us now, or at some time in the future. No matter that these unfortunates get mixed up with the real bad apples, the only important thing is that the good, upstanding citizens are protected. Certainly, there is a certain logic to such an argument. After all, prevention is increasingly a goal of medicine as well. But, when we reach the point where we are permanently detaining our fellow human beings for trivial offenses, and even worse, on the mere suspicion of an offense, we are crossing a very real line between safety, and human and civil rights. As the old story goes, "First they came for the Jews...and then for the Catholics...and then when there was no one else left...they came for me. When we begin to treat justice as a game; a game in which we exclude those we deem incapable of contributing positively to the team, we commit a potentially grave error. Segregate the league, decide beforehand who gets to step up to the plate, and it's a whole new ballgame.

References http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000489537

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Davey, Joseph Dillon. The New Social Contract: America's Journey from Welfare State to Police State. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.

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Dyer, Joel. The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000.

Families to Amend California's Three Strikes, "FACTS About California's 3-Strikes Law," 11 May 2001. URL: http://www.facts1.com/general/facts1.htm.

Fox, James Allen and Zawitz, Marianne W. (2001) Homicide Trends in the United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 10.

A www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000950843

Galliher, James M., and John F. Galliher. "A "Commonsense" Theory of Deterrence and the "Ideology" of Science: The New York State Death Penalty Debate." Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (2001): 307+.

Mello, Michael. "Defunding Death." American Criminal Law Review 32.4 (1995): 933-1012 www.questia.com/PM.qst?action=openPageViewer&docId=96442219

Robinson, Paul H. "Commentaries: Punishing Dangerousness: Cloaking Preventive Detention as Criminal Justice." Harvard Law Review 114.5 (2001): 1429-1456.

A www.questia.com/PM.qst?action=openPageViewer&docId=95111186

Rubin, Edward L. Minimizing Harm: A New Crime Policy for Modern America / . Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.

Thompson, Larry D.

Remarks for Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson. Congressional Black Caucus, Friday 9/28/01. (2001) URL: http://www.usdoj.gov/dag/speech/2001/092801congblackcaucus.htm

United States Department of Justice. (1998) Homicide Trends in the United States: 1998 Updates. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Crime Data Brief. URL:

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/htius98.pdf.

Zimring, Franklin E.; Hawkins, Gordon; and Kamin, Sam. Punishment and Democracy:

Three Strikes and You're Out in California. Oxford University Press, 2001. URL: http://www.oup-usa.org/isbn/0195136861.html.

A www.questia.com/PM.qst?action=openPageViewer&docId=35253150

Joel Dyer, The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000) 157.

A www.questia.com/PM.qst?action=openPageViewer&docId=35253150

Joel Dyer, The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000) 158.

Franklin E. Zimring, Gordon Hawkins, and Sam Kamin, Punishment and Democracy:

Three Strikes and You're Out in California, (Oxford University Press, 2001). URL: http://www.oup-usa.org/isbn/0195136861.html

http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000489537

Richard Bellamy, "Crime and Punishment," History Review.

Larry D. Thompson, Remarks for Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson. Congressional Black Caucus, Friday 9/28/01. (2001) URL: http://www.usdoj.gov/dag/speech/2001/092801congblackcaucus.htm

United States Department of Justice. (1998) Homicide Trends in the United States: 1998 Updates. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Crime Data Brief. URL:

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/htius98.pdf

James Allen Fox, and Marianne W. Zawitz. Homicide Trends in the United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Ibid. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5000373905

Michael Mello, "Defunding… [END OF PREVIEW]

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