The Western world has been characterized with various systems of criminal prosecution. Each system is renowned manly by the trend adapted in deciding on the public prosecution. For instance, looking at the continental England, it is the sole duty of the state to place a dismissal to the prosecutions that have been initiated by the local police. This is a trend that has been initiated since the early 19th century (Jon-Christian 156). The historical Europe is characterized by the state which has entirely been given all the criminal justice implementation initiative. American however has a hybrid criminal prosecution system which has evolved from the early 1960s. It is also apparent that although United States’ majority population has always been the blacks, this majority population has historically played a minority role when it comes to initiation of important decisions through which their destiny is determined. It is apparent that in this system, the blacks have received unlawful treatment in the American criminal justice system. In many studies, the focus has been on the presence of prevalent racial discrimination against this group. In this article, the issue of criminal justice in the United States is comprehensively visited and the trend from 1866 to 1988.
The criminal justice in the United States
The entry of colonists in the United States set a trend that involved the incorporation of untrained lawyers in the criminal justice system. This trend prevailed the colonial time and was even ignored during the introduction of the Jim Crow laws (Jon-Christian 157). Revisiting the colonial era, many criminal justice components were characterized by having a striking resemblance to the Holland, France, and England (Eck 79). However, the influence of the Dutch and French gradually vanished in the islands. The remnant was a basic idea that had been heard by many when it came to the English common law structure; a structure that can be traced back to the colonists in the seventeenth century. This system was based on the history of the decisions that had previously been made by the previous judges as opposed to the lawmaking codes. Under this system, a distinction was made between the misdemeanors and felonies which existed as two crime categories. For crimes that were more serious, the legal system involved a grand jury in which most community members were incorporated. This jury decided whether the existing evidence justified prosecution. However, these proceedings involved no public prosecutors and district attorneys (Jon-Christian 156).
According to Jon-Christian (156), it is apparent that criminal justice enforcement was until the 19th century the state and local government’s responsibility only. However following the passing of Interstate Commerce Act in the year 1970, there was an onset by the United States government towards implementation of some law enforcement responsibilities. This resulted to the establishment of the justice department in the year 1870 to implement and enforce these responsibilities (Jon-Christian 156). Two years later (1872), the United States amendment transferred the federal control authority from the interior department to a new department. This major step was shortly followed by establishment of new prison facilities. Among these facilities, a penitentiary was established in 1895 at Leavenworth together with establishment of a women facility at West Virginia. In the year 1924, another penitentiary facility was established in Alderson (Kelling et al. 12).
Discrimination in the criminal justice
In the American history, discrimination has been incorporated into the legal system. For instance, after the approved return of the escaped slaves, the US constitution offered that these slaves were to be counted as two-thirds of a complete person for the purpose of tax and apportionment. In the year 1857, it was ruled by a case of Sanford Vs. Dred Scott that slaves were to be treated as slaves when traveling around the United States (Alford 326). Worse still, the African Americans were not included in the constitutional privileges and rights. Although the modern America has eliminated these racists’ ideas, the likelihood of arrest and prosecution of African America still remains high in comparison to a white ‘citizen’. The issues of incarceration and racial disputes have been seen to prevail in the modern America. In the modern American for instance, one in every 3 blacks is either imprisoned, under parole or on probation (Alford 325).
Police incorporation into the United States criminal justice
The incorporation of the State police agency can be traced back to 1905 in the State of Pennsylvania. This establishment followed a recommendation by the anthracite strike commission of Theodore Roosevelt and Pennypacker Samuel; who was by then the Governor (Kelling et al. 12). The police car introduction and the early telephone in the early 20th century resulted in transformation of the policing into a responsive strategy that mainly focused on the radio call response and handing over the crime victims for criminal investigation and prosecution. With the leadership of the police chief of California, the State commenced professionalization and new technology adoption in 1820 (Kelling et al. 14). With this major revolution in place, what followed was increased centralization of the police control and command. With the assistance of Wilson O.W., it was possible to reduce the corruption coupled with the introduction of professionalism in Kansas, Chicago and Wichita department of police. Wilson incorporated strategies such as rotation of the officers from one community to the other in the effort to ensure a reduction the corruption vulnerability and establishment of a police board that was based on non-partisan system. With this system, it was possible for the police force to be governed in a strict approach through which the department underwent promotions coupled with an aggressive recruitment (Kelling et al. 11).
Although such reforms have been initiated, the police agencies through the leadership of tyrannical leaders portrayed lack of respect between the community and the police. In the era of professionalism policing, the enforcement of law mainly reproached various crimes among them being the felonies; therefore crippling crime prevention effort. As a result of the 1960s urban unrest, the police placed more emphasis on issues related to community relations. In addition, various reforms were enacted including fueling an increase in diversity hiring. In a patrol study by the Kansas City prevention unit in 1960s, this policing approach was found to be futile (Kelling et al. 12).
In the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the strategies of community policing were initiated by law enforcement agencies. This was coupled with adaptation policing that was problem oriented. 1989 is renowned for the development of compStat by the police department stationed in the New York. This development was an information-based approach through which it was possible to track and map the patterns and trend of crime. It was also possible to hold the police accountable for dealing with the problems related to crime. It is through this compStat initiative that the police system has been replicated not only in the United States but also globally (Kelling et al. 12).
This article has provided a popular analysis of the American criminal justice revolution. In the analysis, strong emphasis has been placed on the historical perspective of the criminal and justice contemporary issues. Some of the major periods of American criminal justice development have been identified. These developments have captured the transformation from the colonial period to the period of establishment of the prison, police and court system together with the professionalism search in 20th century. From this article, it is apparent that the best and worse of criminal system can be can be traced back to the democratic system in the United States. Therefore the current controversies in the criminal justice management are followed back to the historical origins with various conflicts being explored in the crime control advocates and due process advocates. Therefore, this trend portrays a changing pattern from the institutional criminal justice development to exploration of the prevailing tension in the rule of law.
Alford, R. Appellate review of racist summations: Redeeming the promise of searching analysis. Michigan Journal of Race and Law. 11, 325-365, 2006.
Eck, Werner. The Age of Augustus. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Page 79, 2003.
Jon-Christian, Suggs. African American literature and the law, in Austin Sarat (ed.) Special Issue Law and Literature Reconsidered, Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Pp.153-172, 2008.
Kelling, George et al. “Evolving Strategy of Policing: Case Studies of Strategic Change.” National Institute of Justice. NCJ. pp. 9-14. 2002.