The probation department is a critical constituent of the criminal justice system. Probation officers have a fundamental obligation to the system and society at large to ensure that they facilitate the administration of justice in a fair, just and objective manner. They attain this essential duty mainly by preparation of presentence investigation report, which gets then submitted to the court of law. The report should be based on the defendant’s character, criminal history, background, his family life and any other relevant facts that the officer may deem fit to aid in the administration of justice. The report will then be used by the prosecution, the defence and the court in informing the arguments about the defendant. The primal aim of preparing a presentence report, however, is to avail relevant, adequate, accurate and timely data to a judge, which would then form the basis for a rational sentence (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012).
It follows, therefore; that an objective, meticulous and fair presentence report in not only desirable, but also essential to attaining justice in the criminal justice system. However, this is easily said than done. In high profile cases or those cases in which get hyped by the media, it is extremely hard for the involved parties to refrain from being subjective. Violent crimes have traditionally acquired a high affinity to media attention. Therefore, because this phenomenon is inevitable, it is proper for all concern stake holders to up their guard. It has become a common trend to find reporters from newspapers, radio station and other news agencies stalk criminal justice officers inquiring for critical information regarding a case. This paper will canvas a case study concerning the Collier County Probation department headed, in an acting capacity, by Joan Casey and the predicament that she has at hand.
When Casey receives a call from a well-known veteran local television anchor, she should receive it with respect and professional conduct it deserves. This paper acknowledges that it can be extremely hard to handle the media sometimes because of the inquisitive nature. However, Casey can capitalize, on this opportunity, to reassure the media and the public at large that the Collier County Probation department has the interest of the whole society at heart, when making its decisions. Therefore, she should inform the television report in categorical terms that the department shall recommend immediate sanctions to the accused as far as the law stipulates. She needs to explain to the reporter that the decision has been reached through due process and is accordance to the law. She should make it clear that it is a department’s position. She should also inform the reporter about any mitigating factors that might influence their decision for lesser or harsh presentence report. It is vital that Casey assures the report that department is just, fair and effective with regarding to combating crime in the community.
A healthy relationship between the criminal justice system and the media is not only desirable, but also extremely vital if law and order have to be effectively achieved. Therefore, the significance of the interview should be that the public get a positive picture about the department. This can only happen if the department is accountable and transparent; virtues that are cardinal in any democratic society (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). Casey should also allow the journalist to seek clarification in any matter concerning this case to avert any misunderstanding. This avoids the media reporting rather distorted information, which only serve to tarnish the department’s image, in the eyes of the public. Casey can also provide the journalist with materials with involve the case which get classified as non-confidential and would not harm the case of the prosecution and defence. This will directly express her sincerity and that of the department. The media will, therefore, not only go soft on the department, but also help them in educating the public about how the justice system works, and how a sentence gets determined.
If Casey elects to discuss her officer’s recommendation for some form of intermediate sanction, she has to provide for justification for such sanctions. It is the law that administrative agencies and organizations, that make decisions, which affect the livelihood of citizens, should give their reasons for such decisions (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). This is to be fair and transparent. There exists a vast deposit of justification from which Casey can draw from, with regards to their recommendations that the accused get immediate sanctions. First, it is contrary to law and society norms to kill another person. The law stipulates severe sanctions to any person who commits the actus rues of murder with mens rea, which is the intention on the part of the accused to commit the overt act. The public expects public agencies and court of law to respect and uphold the law, when it gets called upon to do so by circumstances. It is, therefore, the wish of the public that criminal be punished according to law. Secondly, the law does not acknowledge revenge as a self-help remedy. The few exceptions, with regards to murder, address only concerns with regards to accidents and self-defense. Thirdly, it is contrary to societal norms and values to kill another person. Therefore, the people, as explained by social contract theorists, have placed a duty on the state to punish all law breakers on behalf of the citizenry (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012).
Moreover, in light of the fact that crime in the community has been on the rise, Casey can argue that the harsh and immediate sanctions would deter criminals. She can argue that the crime was premeditated, and thus an immediate sanction is the best form of punishment, in such a case, as it serves as a lesson to all members of the community who are planning to commit a crime. The certainty of receiving an immediate sanction would deter even the hardest of criminals, and recidivists into conforming to the law. Authorities such as Adolphe Quetelet argue that when certainty of a sanction for the offenders weighs more on the criminal, than a harsh sentence which gets tainted with the possibility of impunity (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012).
However, this paper does not concord with the recommendations of the Collier County Probation department with regards to the circumstances of this case. Their recommendations are harsh to the offender, without taking into account that he is also a victim of another crime. A balance shall, therefore, be struck to ensure that justice is done to the offender, as well as to the person who got killed. That is justice must not only be done, but also must be seen to be done. The author, therefore, holds a differing opinion and provides adequate reasons for that contrary opinion. There exist four fundamental reasons for imposing a sentence on an individual after he has committed a crime. They include retribution, deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation. Therefore, any argument made with regards to the severity, duration or any other sanction imposed on an accused person must be aimed at addressing one or more of these principles of sentencing (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). It is the opinion of this paper that the accused person in this case requires to be given a sentence that would be rehabilitative in nature. This is because, from the facts of the case study, the offender was a victim of incest since he was 5 years. This means that he has been suffering abuse for an unusually long time. Other mitigating factors indicate that he is a nonviolent person and has extremely low recidivism case. Therefore, locking him up in prison would do justice to no one as far as prevention or deterrence is concerned. These facts, therefore, makes me disagree strongly with the recommendation of the probation officer and Casey.
As argued above, a fair and just sentence or sanction should reflect the generally accepted principles of sentencing. Another significant principle in sentencing is that consideration should not only be given to the offense, but also to the offender. It is bad law to consider only the gravity of the offence without due regard to the person alleged to commit that offence. In the circumstances of this case, more consideration should thus be given to the offender rather than the crime (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012). This is the only way that the department would ensure that offender gets a sentence that holds promise to him. Therefore, I advocate for a rehabilitative or reformative approach with regards to sentencing this offender. He can first and foremost get admitted to a counseling hospital for him to be counseled properly, with regards to the abuse that he has endured throughout his life. However, he should put in custody until he declared safe and sound. He should be assigned a probation officer who shall report his progress as he tries to fit back in the society. A justification to this mode of sanction is that the accused is more psychologically sick than guilt. The offender is a psychologically fragile person and the alleged matter that he committed got done without him thinking clearly (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012).
It is the opinion of this paper that the Collier County Probation department errored in its recommendations to the court concerning this case before them. It is likely that the threat of getting fired by Mr. Brown, who is the head of the agency, may have influenced their decision. It is extremely desirable for public servants and state officers to put the interest of the public before their own. However, in this case, Casey and her officers failed. It was also wrong for Mr. Brown to demand better PSI reports from his staff, or he fires them. The threat, therefore, of losing their jobs clouded their thinking at the expense of competence and fair and just administration of justice. To correct this, the department, should ensure that its staff make independent decisions based on their professional competence and experience. By virtue of Casey being a member of several correctional institutions, she must have the requisite knowledge, expertise and experience to make competent decisions that are fair, just and appropriate to each case (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012).
The Collier Counter Probation department is aware of the right of the public to be informed. The department shall from time to time release any relevant information to fulfill this right. The officer of the director shall be the principal office with the requisite authority to release any information to the public. This responsibility can be delegated to any office with the express authority of the director. All information release shall be in compliance will all laws including and not limited to privacy laws and right to access laws.
Clear, T. R., Reisig, M. D., & Cole, G. F. (2012). American Corrections. New York: Cengage Learning.