Research Proposal: Comparison of New Zealand and the United States Criminal Justice System

Pages: 10 (3004 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … New Zealand and the United States Criminal Justice System

New Zealand and United States Criminal Justice System

Comparison of the New Zealand and United States Criminal Justice System

Brief history of New Zealand

The first inhabitants of New Zealand were the indigenous Maoris. It is estimated that that arrived on the islands in 950 -1130 AD. (Tangata Whenua:

The local people) Maori tradition suggests through their myths and legends that the Maori people came to the country from regions of Polynesia. (New Zealand) a Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman, found and explored the region in 1642. (New Zealand) This was followed by the famous journey and explorations of the country by the British captain James Cook. He was to make three voyages to the islands, beginning in 1769. The New Zealand islands were annexed by Britain in 1840.

In term of the social and legal development of the country, the first formal aspects were related to the control of the Maori people. The Treaty of Waitangi (1840) was signed between the British occupiers and the Maori. The treaty was a deal that protected the Maori if they accepted British rule. However, this was to lead to many conflicts on the islands between the two groups. (New Zealand)

New Zealand became a self-governing colony (1856), and a dominion in 1907. It gained independence in terms of its external and internal policies by the 1920s but only became legally independent in 1947. (New Zealand: Brittanica) it is a member of the commonwealth.

2. Religion of New Zealand

In terms of religious structure, New Zealand is predominantly Christian with more than half the population affiliated to various Christian denominations. The largest of the denominations are Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian. (Religion) Anglicans comprise 584,793 or 17% of the population, Catholics 486,012 or 14% and Presbyterian 417,453 or 11%. There has in recent years been a significant increase in the number of Catholics in the country. (Census snapshot: cultural diversity)

However, there is a significant proportion of the population who adhere to other religions, which provides the country with a mix of faiths and views on life - a factor that also influences the legal and criminal justice system. This relates as well to the issue of diversity in the country. Besides the dominant Christian groups, other religious groups include various protestant denominations, Eastern Orthodox churches, Jewish congregations, and Maori adaptations of Christianity. (New Zealand: Britannica) it is also significant that almost one-fourth of the New Zealand population do not have any religious affiliation. (New Zealand: Britannica) There is no official religion in the country.

3. Government and politics of New Zealand

It should be remembered that both New Zealand and the United State are former British colonies. The governmental and legal structure of New Zealand initially originated from its British heritage but has over time developed its own unique characteristics. As one study notes; "While it is still linked with Britain through the retention of the monarchy, it is governed by its own Westminster-style parliamentary system..." (Young) This governmental system is based on a uni-cameral legislature. This means that the central body of government consists of a single legislative chamber. This system differs from larger and more complex systems in countries such as the United States.

The single chamber model of legislation is however particularly appropriate for smaller and more centralized governmental structure, as is the case in New Zealand. The advantages of this system over more complex models are that;

There is the potential to enact proposed legislation more rapidly, since differences don't have to be reconciled by two chambers.

There is the potential of greater accountability, since only one body is responsible for legislation.

It is less expensive to maintain one body and fewer legislative members.

Legislative Chambers: Unicameral or Bicameral?)

This differs from the U.S. model which is essentially more decentralized and bicameral. This is also due to the federal structure of the United States. The U.S. model results in a system or power and legislative structure '...where subdivisions are drawn to coincide with other important societal units, (and) the upper house can serve to represent ethnic, religious or tribal groupings." (Legislative Chambers: Unicameral or Bicameral) Furthermore, New Zealand can be characterized as a mixed-member proportional parliamentary democracy and shares many value and ideals, as well as ideologies with the United States. (Vaughn)

National government is the main legislative and organizational instrument in the society and, while there are local government functions, most governmental functions are exercised at the national level. This has implications for the legislative and criminal justice process in terms of aspects such as administration and costs.

In summary, the New Zealand governmental and political structure is based on the liberal democratic model of representation and the rule of law as well as the principle of accountability and the open scrutiny of those in power. These are essentially the same principles that guide the American model.

Thus the prevailing political rhetoric emphasizes the protection of civil liberties, the maintenance of law and order and the preservation of an egalitarian ideology that underpins much of New Zealand's social and political life." (New Zealand) in this light, New Zealand has become a country that is known for its welfare legislation as well as the attention that is given to aspects such as women's rights, socialized medicine and unemployment and health insurance. (New Zealand)

4. Crime in New Zealand

There have been indications is recent history of an increase in crime rates in the country. "The recorded offence rate rose steadily from 55 per 1,000 population in 1970 to an all-time peak of 132 per 1,000 population in 1992." (Overall offence rate) This is a factor that can be compared to larger developed countries like the United States where various types of crime, such white-collar crime, have also shown an increase in recent years.

The increase in crime rates in New Zealand has been attributed to many causes. As one governmental report on the subject suggests:

real increase in the crime rate may be due to a range of factors, including increasing opportunities for crime in a consumer society and changes to the demographic structure of New Zealand society. One factor that may have influenced the increase in the offence rate between 1970 and 1992 is that many of the baby boomers reached the age group where most offending occurs (15 to 30 years).

Overall offence rate)

These are factors that are often echoed in reports about increasing crime rates in the United States.

Socio-economic factors have also been noted as important aspects that can affect crime rates. For example, one study finds that there was a significant increase in income inequality in New Zealand between 1982 and 1996 (Overall offence rate).

This increase occurred for both pre- and post-tax income at both personal and household levels and may have contributed to some of the increases in the recorded offence rate over the period. Other factors that can affect the number of crimes recorded include changing social attitudes.

Overall offence rate).

An important factor is that violent crime is relatively low in New Zealand and constitutes only ten percent of all recorded crime and offences. (Violent crime) "Homicides rate high in the public's concern about violent crime, but such crimes made up less than 0.4% of all violent crimes recorded between 1994 and 2000." (Violent crime)

5. The Criminal justice System of New Zealand

In recent years there have been innovative changes in the New Zealand criminal justice system. One of the most profound of these changes is in the area of juvenile justice; namely, the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act of 1989. This legislation"... encourages resolution of youth crime problems outside of the formal court system. For example, it provides for family group conferences that are restorative in purpose and that reflect some aspects of Maori traditions with respect to conflict resolution."(Restorative Justice online) This is an important aspect that of the criminal justice system that makes New Zealand stand out from aspects of the American system.

In the late 1900s New Zealand moved away for the purely 'justice' model of criminal process that is used extensively in countries like the United States. This model places emphasis on only the issues and facts pertaining directly to the crime of breach of law. This model was criticized for its "...lack of substantive justice" and many argue that "....deliberately ignoring the causes of the crime, especially issues of social disadvantage, and placing importance on equal punishment can lead to injustice in itself." (a History of Youth Justice in New Zealand) This was to lead to the model of reformative justice that has been applied with great success in New Zealand.

6. The Police Force of New Zealand

The structure of the New Zealand police force is based on a decentralized organizational model that is divided into twelve districts in the country. This organization also includes a National Headquarters and service centers. (New Zealand Police: About Us) This police force… [END OF PREVIEW]

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