Criminal Trials in Drug Courts in Europe
According to Langbein, the modern European Trial is an investigation into the truth, but not a stage battle of partisans committed to distortion. This is true with regards to prosecution and rehabilitation of drug offender that is now revamped in European countries. The criminal justice system is critical in the formation of any civilized society; it is required that the criminal justice system should be robust and in a position to protect the interests and rights of the various groups within the society. It comprises of three distinct elements; these are the law enforcement officers, the courts, and the correctional facilities. The law enforcement officers' main role is to arrest and apprehend suspects; they also undertake some bit of investigation into alleged criminal activities so that they may have enough evidence to sustain a trial. The Courts main role is to determine the aspect of whether or not an individual is guilty or not. If a suspect turns out to be guilty, then the courts are obligated to sentence him or her in accordance with the law. The intricate aspects of sentencing entail committal to a custodial sentence or the alternative that entails the community correctional centers or even probation. This is where the correctional services come in; the main duty of the correctional facilities is to conduct rehabilitation of drug offenders.
All the three elements need to be complementary to each other so as to run and operate a flawless criminal justice system and particularly while dealing with drug criminals. The aspect of a flawless criminal justice system has, however, not been achieved and it is in this hindsight that this paper discusses the elements of race, gender, and ethnicity in the criminal justice system when it comes to prosecution of drug cases. Drug courts refer to portions of judges or specialized court dockets that concern non-violent offenders experiencing substance abuse problems. The programs offered at these courts provide offenders with mandatory drug testing, intensive court supervision, social services, and substance abuse treatment as an alternative to incarceration and adjudication. In this manner, the design of the drug courts breaks the cycle of crime, substance abuse and addiction by correcting the offenders' substance abuse behaviors.
The participation in drug court programs is voluntary, that means that eligible defendants are required to agree with the requirements of the program and complete the program successful in the alternative to the prescribed incarceration. The offenders can also have their sentences reduced; criminal charges dismissed, or reduced when they participate in these programs. Because drug courts encourage offenders' compliance and administer sanctions on those participants who fail to be compliant with the requirements of the program, it in an area of concern for policymakers with regards to fighting substance abuse. Policymakers consider drug courts an essential strategy providing drug treatment, reducing incarceration, and reducing recidivism among non-violent offenders. The aspects of racism and gender usually affect the delivery of justice in drug courts; in most cases, there have been references to bias and outright cases of favoritism in the European criminal justice system.
One of the great challenges of criminal justice is refraining newly released offenders from crime and drugs. It is in the best interest of criminal justice and the community as well as the corrections to provide excellent transition services to assist inmates' successful return to the society or their community. One of the ways that European correctional facilities use to safeguard the community from criminal activities is by incapacitating criminals and keeping them away from the community. However, some the offenders cannot be kept away from the society by incapacitating them forever, there comes a time when they must return to the community. This creates the need for the criminal justice to ensure that offenders successfully rehabilitated and re-enters the community. The community can be protected in the long term by reducing the likelihood of ex-prisoners engaging in drugs and crime after their release from prisons. One such strategy of minimizing the risk of recidivism is provision of services, support and treatment to prisoners after their release and during their incarceration. This approach is gaining prominence in European countries and internationally as it recognizes that the inmates experience a range of personal, economic and social challenges that bar them from practicing crime-free lifestyle.
In addition, one of the ways in which the European criminal justice systems can achieve successful integration of drug offenders to the community is improving pre-release and release programs and services to inmates. The primary purpose of pre-release and release of prisoners is to prepare them for a successful re-entry into the community or the society upon their release from prison. Pre-release activities and programs focus on improving the prisoners' human, social and employability skills so as to facilitate a successful reintegration to an employer's payroll from the state's payroll. Some of the drug court programs that the paper suggests should be incorporated in the pre-release and release program includes vocational or education training release, work release, community corrections, temporary home furlough, community correction furlough programs, group home residence, and thorough healthcare programs among others. These programs have a custodial structure and operate as a continuum of the prison's rehabilitative services with a strong emphasis on guidance and counseling.
The historical perspective in the Europe offers a very unforgiving glimpse into the numerous cases of injustice that got propagated in the criminal justice system. History has recorded various incidents in the late 19th Century and the 20th Century where people of color ended up being tried and convicted by juries consisting of persons from a single race. Such occurrences marked the hallmarks of injustice that got meted out on helpless persons accused of commission of criminal offences related to drugs. In the same vein, there were numerous cases of women being tried by predominantly male juries, this asserts the commonly held notion that issues of gender bias have been alive and with us for the longest time and it needs to be addressed so as to give full credence to the element of justice. Although, drug courts effectively operate in Europe, it is not clear how the programs should respond to the needs of the participating offenders as well as the needs of criminal justice of reducing substance abuse in Europe. There is no clear policy relating to the number of offenders participating in drug court programs and the extent to which they succeed after completing these programs as a result of discrimination issues. These estimations have severally indicated that race, gender, and ethnicity in the criminal justice system affect the benefits that offenders should receive from those programs. Consequently, variations exist on how drug court define eligibility, supervise participants, offer substance abuse treatment and enforce compliance as a reflection of the court's adaptability to the national policy model. There are also public policy considerations on the cost-benefit analyses, complicate programs comparisons and evaluations.
Therefore, this paper explores various issues connected racial and gender discrimination with drug court programs that largely impact on the criminal justice system. This paper relies on both international literature and class discussion, to explore the various ways in which recidivism can be reduced in European countries through rehabilitation and re-entry of drug offenders into the community. It examines the way that courts can design programs and efficiently administer their facilities in a manner that society can get protection through rehabilitation and control of drug offenders. The paper concludes that there should be increased opportunities for qualified drug offenders to access community resources, to start reintegration to the community as well as demonstrate individual responsibility and self-control. The design of the drug court and pre-release programs should also be improved with regards to participation criteria to ensure that the every drug offender benefit most from the program, and only those drug offenders who present the least risk to the society should be enrolled in the program. The funding of the drug court and pre-release and release program and services should also be increased to ensure that the opportunities are available to as many drug offenders as possible.
Racial and Gender Discrimination in Drug Courts
The manner in which the drug courts and correctional services got run was entirely in perpetuation of bigotry and the racist agenda; individuals from particular races could be executed for the simplest drug related offences. Such minor violations which bordered on the idea of racial profiling necessitated the need to rethink various laws and provisions. The advent of friendly laws and legal provisions has been slow and wanting; for instance, in the 1960s, the some governments in Europe spearheaded tough drug laws that tended to disfavor and disenfranchise the people from some communities. The laws instituted stiff penalties for drug offenders which included a life sentence for a repeat offender notwithstanding the fact that such offender did not engage in violent crime.
The aspect of justice in the conventional sense covers such aspects such as the issue of natural justice. Natural justice entails the right to be heard and defend oneself; it is a well-known phenomenon that the minority races in bear the brunt of the major racially motivated actions; for instance, as intimated above, the idea of selection of the jury sometimes negates the element of justice that is supposed to be evident in the whole endeavor. The lack of confidence in the whole trial process renders the whole procedure a sham and it could only be construed as a travesty of justice.
The issue of racial disparities in the various levels of the criminal justice system may refer to the existence of a given disparity that to some extent may could translate to outright discrimination or otherwise. It is prudent to appreciate the society is very diverse and particularly multi-racial; the multi-racial aspect needs to be reflected in each and every element of the criminal justice system for it to achieve the sense of credence that it should. A classic scenario appears in the statistics that point to the number of minorities in various levels of the criminal justice system. Most researchers advance the opinion that racial discrimination and disparities are deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system, particularly in drug courts and that makes it very difficult to seek to root them out. There is, however, need to draw the line between the aspect of racial discrimination and racial disparities. In terms of cause and effect, racial disparities lead to cases of racial discrimination; this is because the majority tends to lord and rule over the minority with little regard for their opinions. This is the scenario that gets actualized in the various police forces and police departments in European nations; a minority citizen, can easily be stopped by an officer as compared to the chances of stopping a majority citizen.
Sexism also gets portrayed in various forms and ways in the contemporary society; the depiction that women cannot assume positions of power gets deeply entrenched into the minds of the society and it becomes difficult for that notion to be eliminated. For instance, many movies portraying courtroom scenes rarely feature female judges in this position. It, therefore, becomes quite difficult for a woman to even pass through the vetting process for various judicial positions; this results in outright bias in appointments of judges. The portrayal as the weaker sex also brings about the issue of their abilities to engage in strenuous activities that characterize the general police work. There is, therefore, a shortage of female officers in the police ranks based on a sexist perception of their abilities.
The perception that people from some racial backgrounds such as Latinos engage in the drug trade gets portrayed in the mainstream media though television and movies; it, therefore, becomes very difficult for such an individual to disentangle himself from such a perception. The scenario also arises where the police would most likely arrest that person for a drug related offence as compared to arresting another individual. A culture change where everyone gets made to understand that the depictions appearing in the mainstream media do not constitute a true version of events in real life is necessary. The various people operating on the different levels of the criminal justice system should also understand and appreciate this position so that their personal perceptions do not cloud the general idea of what constitutes the institution of justice. This will ensure that there is sanity and coherence in the European criminal justice system.
There are various ways that could be used to remedy these cases of racial disparities in criminal justice system in Europe; one of the ways would be in ensuring that there is equity in resource distribution so that all groups of people have a similar foundation and giving anybody accused of drug offences enrolled in the drug court programs. It is very difficult to attempt to cure the symptoms of racial disparities without making an attempt to cure the cause of that disparity. It is a well-known fact that most members of the minority groups in Europe are not usually financially endowed as compared to the majority citizens. There is a need to create opportunities so that the perception that most of the crimes in European countries get perpetuated by a minority can end.
Empowerment is not the only solution to racial and gender disparities; there needs to be a total mindset change within the general populace that seeks to assert the position of equality before the law. A change of mindset takes place over time and it needs to be achieved within a given timeline. There are various instances where there has been discrimination based on the idea of gender; one of the classic examples is in the women’s voting rights where the women were not allowed in the majority of European countries until early 20th century. The same can be achieved within the criminal justice system where the number of women serving either as law enforcement officers or members of the bench. It is expected that the numbers are going to increase as reforms take root in the average European’s mind.
Administration of Drug Courts Programs
The starting point in the drug court programs debate should be whether the drug menace is a social and or criminal issue. Most of the law that got enacted in the 20th Century sought to brand this problem as a criminal issue by seeking long and instituting minimum sentences for offenders. This idea, however, has to be approached from a constructive position, is the idea of taking drugs a criminal issue? Most scholarly writers will agree that drug taking tendencies are themselves an indication of a social problem in society. This means that the taking of drugs affects an individual and that it should not be elevated to a criminal issue requiring the intervention of criminal laws and statutes. The fact that drug use affects the health of a person indicates that we should not continue treating non-violent drug offenders in the same manner that we treat violent offenders. Drug use contributes to a lot of the social problems that we witness like drunk driving. The lack of an appropriate strategy and the enactment of punitive laws indicate a lack of willingness of the criminal justice system to tackle this problem properly.
The sheer brutality of the drug laws and drug policies got manifested in the laws that got enacted in early 19 century in Europe, as they established minimum sentences for offenders and even proposed life sentences for drug pushers. These laws and policies were indicative of the misconception that the administration had come to adopt regarding the issue of drug abuse and drug use. Several leaders from European countries had deliberately avoided dealing with the problem of drugs as a social issue due to other motivations. There was widespread misconception about the idea of drug use and drug abuse and thus an even larger misconception about the issue of drug policies. The society endeavored to develop an extremely narrow and oversimplified view of the prevalent drug problems in society.
In general, the majority of European countries had been unsuccessful in its various attempts to control drugs; indeed, with each criminal prohibition getting instituted, there has been a consequent increase in drug use, especially the use of mind altering drugs. This manifests to a bigger problem, most of the socially acceptable drugs like alcohol and nicotine face little or no regulation; in fact, the little regulation that is there is not being enforced to the fullest thereby creating numerous loopholes for manipulation. For instance, it is not any surprising to get a minor buying alcohol with ease; if such a rule got enforced, the punishment would merely be a slap on the wrist. However, a similar case with a controlled substance like marijuana and or heroine draws adverse and dire consequences resulting in outright discrimination and victimization.
Some public policy research have suggested that drug courts shown ineffectiveness in ordering check-up meeting for participants despite them being a viable strategy for reducing addiction among substance-abusing criminals. If a person is ordered to go for rehabilitation on the proof that the defendants were in possession of drugs, it is trite law or policy for the court to order regular check-ups at least two to three times annually. The development, expansion and implementation of this policy of drug courts should be incorporated in the Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program in Criminal Justice Systems.
The drug problem and menace is a major issue in Criminal Justice System in European Countries as a result of criminal and drug gangs that sell and deal in this trade. The government of these countries are no stranger to these challenges, and it has, for the longest time, made attempts to curb the issue of drug trafficking and also rehabilitate those that have already fallen victim to this drug problem. In this regard, there has been an institution of various criminal justice policies, one of them Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program, all with the aim of ensuring that drug addicts abandon their self-destructive behaviors and adopt better practices. It is from this notion and position that this debate exists on whether drug addicts should be subjected to long prison sentences and also on whether such prison sentences help and assist in any way.
Lack of such policy has on several occasions made evaluation of drug courts difficult in as much as controlling substance abuse among offenders is a publicly concerned. These will require the drug courts to adhere to regular check-up meeting for participants' policy as a key component of their overall mandate. In as much as they courts can differ in factors such as degree of judicial intervention and monitoring, duration of treatment as well as the admission criteria, these laws should provide a common policy on check-up meetings and the successful treatment of the offenders. As a result, the task of evaluating the effectiveness of drug courts and doing comparisons will be a simple task to determine the effective evaluations.
The implementation of regular check-ups policy will also give vital revelation on the budgetary impact of expanding drug courts programs and the offenders who should participate which are matters of great concern to policymakers. As previously mentioned, even though no clear statistics exists on annual national totals for participating offenders, policymakers are increasingly interested on whether expansion of drug court programs will be beneficial to government of various countries in Europe. Statistics of level of involvement and incarceration of offenders in correctional system in various countries is longstanding concern for national government policymakers. While communities get protection from dangerous and most violent criminals through incarceration, various questions have been raised on whether the broad use of incarceration as a sanction for non-violent offenders is an effective and appropriate crime deterrent.
The mere possession of heroin weighing 15 grams would land an offender between 15 and 25 years in jail. The adoption of the stringent laws and policies brought with them the notion that they were the toughest drug laws in the Europe at that moment. The fact these laws got created out of a populist maneuver was evidence to the problem that European countries faced at that moment. There is a need to stop the populist endeavors and to adopt measures that have been thought through and that have a possibility of success in their fulsome state. This should be the assertion that drug use and abuse are a social problem that should be tackled using social mechanisms and not through punitive criminal measures.
All these factors combined bring about a scenario where several Europeans fail to find peace and purpose in life without resorting to drugs. In light of all these factors, the European criminal justice system needs to appreciate that the issue of drugs and drug problem has indeed adopted a social perspective that needs a social solution. The continued attention on the issue of drugs with its regard as a criminal issue has the effect of diverting immense financial resources and also critical personnel like the judges and police officers. These sums of money would have been used and applied more productively in other crucial sectors of the economy, and the personnel could be deployed to deal with the escalating crime rates. This creates the need to rethink and reconsider the nation's drug laws. Thus, there is a need for a strong change to the European criminal justice system with regard to the stringent drug laws in place. Though not expressly stated, it is a fact that these drug laws are the reason why we have massive overcrowding in the prison facilities, with most of the inmates incarcerated therein being sentenced for drug related crimes.
Incarcerating drug addicts for long periods in prisons does not seem to offer the much sought after solution; most of these drug addicts are social psychopaths who need mentoring and intense rehabilitation for them to become useful members of the society. Sending such disoriented individuals to prison does not seem to cure the problem and it is an escapist attitude, and that does not solve the problem at hand. The drug rehabilitation policy should be tailored to cater for these individuals in a manner that is ideal and tenable to both the public and the offender. The state or nation should be mindful of the welfare of all its citizens, therefore, in seeking to protect the society from the actions of a drug addict, it should also seek to protect the drug addict. Drug abuse is representative of other pressing factors and issues like a declining economic system which leads to loss of jobs and increasing stress levels. Subjecting such a person to a long-term custodial sentence goes against the very principles and ethos that the entire criminal justice system stands.
Several criminal justice scholars are of the view that the current criminal justice policy and European drug laws only work to punish, convict and forget about the drug addicts which in itself is a very wrong approach. The correct methodology that should be adopted should be one that emphasizes on the need to rehabilitate and transform such drug addicts to be productive members of the society without necessarily subjecting them to unwarranted prison sentences. This should be international legislation passed as a convention or treaty so that it applies to all the European countries without exemption. If passed at the national level, there could be the possibility of the laws being abused and or the state legislature exceeding its mandate.
Improving the Pre-release and Release System of Prisoners from Prison
Criminal justice policy makers are concerned by the number of increasing scandals in the criminal justice management system as well as the rising costs that significantly impact on funding of common government services. These policy makers are calling for reevaluation of the policies that continue to see the increase of incarceration as the population of offender in prison historically rises to high level in Europe. The increase in the size and costs of facilities for correction in European countries still remains despite the several tough reforms on drug offenders. The government of these European countries supported the ‘tough on drugs’ reforms as a response to the increase on illegal trade on drugs experienced since 1970s. Moreover, the escalating financial crises and correctional costs have negatively impacted on other sectors of the government such as health, human services, and education budgets. As a result, it is clear that despite the fact that correctional facilities in Europe are heavily costing the government in terms of operations costs, they are decreasing becoming effective in the fight against illegal drugs.
The criminal justice system in Europe identifies the significance of pre-release and release programs and services of prisoners in decreasing the general crime rates. It also identifies that a series of improvements is indispensable to achieve successful integration of drug offenders and prisoners to the community. Identified programs should ensure there is a drop of prisoners' involvement into criminal activities after release from prisons should be incorporated in the release and drug court programs. To improve these programs and system of correctional facilities, expressive education must be given high precedence. Education will guarantee that every prisoner has the ability and information required to successfully participate into the community. Drug offenders should be encouraged to attend classes in community or learning facilities so as to discourse numeracy shortages and literacy to help them in seeking future employment.
The criminal justice must also formulate case sentence plan that clearly outlines the services and programs which needs to be availed to the drug offenders immediate they are received in prison or correctional facility. Case management should be individually tailored to incorporate the prisoners input and risk assessed using reliable tools. This is because pre-release of an offender is an important step for the future offenders and limits the challenges of managing prisons that are prevalent in Europe. The prospect of searching for a meaningful employment upon release from prison is daunting to prisoners. This is extreme for offenders who have been out of employment for a number of years that they were prison. Improvement of release and pre-lease programs also ensure that prisoners have vital skills and work experience through programs such like vocational training opportunities. They should also train offenders nearing release in the present-day society on the new ways and how competently they can look for employment opportunities. This will significantly reduce rates of crime as statistics reveals that only a reduced percentage of ex-offenders engage in crime after their release when they are employed.
Ordinarily, for a prisoner to be eligible for pre-release and release program, he/she must have completed on the lower side, one-half of his minimum side. He/she should also be within one year of the end of his minimum sentence, served at least nine months in a facility, and have no outstanding detainers. The only available exceptions are with the written approval of the designee in necessary situations. For instance, a prisoner may be given early transfer in cases of offender's urgent access to mental or medical health care. These legal requirements should be reviewed with the view of improving the pre-release and release system of prisoners from prisoners. The time eligibility requirement prior to admission into pre-release program or service should be done away with so that offenders get the opportunities at the earliest time possible. Although, it is the criminal justice philosophy that release program and services intensify 18 months before the release, this should be improved so that release preparations begin immediately the offender is admitted to prison. These should include initiatives, such as classes on job, resume writing, and job retention. The classes should be conducted in coordination with organizations and agencies that offer training opportunities and assisting prisoners to find a job.
Pre-release and release system success should go beyond reduced recidivism and incorporate small progress and gains, as opposed to only re-offending. It creates the need to identify the purpose of the pre-release and release program, develop goals or objectives and ascertain the avenues for achieving these goals. These systems should identify the mean of working across organization and agencies for achievement of the goals and objectives. In addition, the pre-release system must pursue multiple criminal justice informed results like improved integration with mainstream community, ultimately improved community safety, and reduced re-offending. The underlined objectives can be attained through several means and informed by different program and services.
Therefore, policymakers insist on increased reliance on drug enforcement and incarceration as a means of impacting on public safety and crime rates. However, the drugs courts have greatly shown ineffectiveness on addressing offenders needs on the successful integration into the community. This is because drug addiction is a distinct area of professionalism from criminal justice and is only best treated by health practitioners or professionals. The drug courts should order regular check-up meeting to be conducted by health professionals. Drug courts should relinquish their inherent policy of coerciveness which typically requires pleading guilty of defendants as a prerequisite on participating in their programs. They should require and order regular testing or check-ups for the participants as an indicator of the program' success, and if a person lapses to send him to prison.
This view should not, however, be taken as being indicative of the fact that custodial sentences should be done away with in cases of drug abuse. To the contrary, custodial sentences should be promoted as they play a very big role in ensuring that the inmates are under strict supervision. Drug rehabilitation is an intensive exercise that requires utmost discipline and consistency; the criminal justice policy should be aware of these factors in seeking to advance a measure that ensures continuity and success of the rehabilitation program. Community rehabilitation centers should be promoted so that the society as a whole can play a part in ensuring the rehabilitation of all addicts and their successful re-integration into the society.
With regards to gender and racial discrimination in handling drug offenders, the most practical steps that should be taken include the provision of policy papers that seek to advance a given legislative agenda. The legislative agenda in question should be aimed at providing a cure for the prevalent issues like the under-representation of women within the general criminal justice system. Such an agenda could be achieved by having statutory provisions that retain certain positions for either gender for a specified period. The need to broaden the recruitment procedure also needs to be emphasized at this point; this is in a manner where recruitment and training for various law enforcement officers gets conducted in an open and transparent manner affording all the groups available an opportunity to be recruited in the service.
There are various images of race and gender in the Europe that advance the idea of racism and sexism; the images might not be advocating for such notions in an outright manner, but they still portray such aspects to the unsuspecting subjects and viewers. The most common images that seek to perpetuate this notion and idea is the television and movie industry. In most circumstances, the movie and TV industry in some European depict the members of some color or race as being the bad guys with the law enforcement officers, who are presumably the good guys being white. The impact of such depiction is usually huge and far-reaching, the society forms a mindset created upon this nation that indeed, such people are violent and they need to be dealt with ruthlessly and in a manner that subdues them completely. The depiction of a particular race and or group of people as violent usually has a profound effect on the criminal justice system; it becomes very easy for the police to arrest an individual bearing such characteristics than it would for another. The same notion gets perpetuated in the drug courts where the judge forms an opinion about those suspected of drug offences based on their skin color emanating in an unfair sentence for such an individual.
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