Now it is time to give careful consideration to the nature of corruption that is the case in the USA. Pepys (2) notes that corruption within the system of justice may be defined as the use of management reserves or public authority to one’s own advantage or for personal gains resulting in an inappropriate legal protection of citizens and delivery of judicial services. In a broad context, the system of justice embraces judges, police, prosecutors, public defenders, court personnel, private bar, and a variety of court decision enforcement agencies, such as, for example, penal institutions. Whatever the variety of justice officials, departments, and institutions, judges hold the highest niche in legal hierarchy, which means the reduction of corruption among judges should become the highest priority of all. Whether it be in criminal, commercial, civil, or administrative decision-making that judges are engaged, they may abuse their authority for the sake of personal gains (Pepys 2). As far as the USA legal system is concerned, all of the aforementioned forensic officials are involved in corrupt practices and an unfair decision-making.
Prosecutors, police, and court personnel are none the more just, playing their role in affecting the provision of legal services, with their involvement in corrupt stratagems being of a dangerous effect on the process of justice administration. In democratic legally sound countries, such as the USA, the judiciary is de jure an equal and independent branch of government protecting civil liberties and human rights by guaranteeing the right to an impartial trial by a competent tribunal. What citizens expect is an access to courts and treatment by prosecutorial authorities, courts, and investigative agencies on a just basis irrespective of their societal standing. With commissions in the hands of corrupt judicial officials, wealthy and powerful citizens avoid going on trial for crimes or delinquencies while a large number of ordinary people are barred from the rightful access to impartial forensic services (Pepys 2-3).
According to Clive Crook (n.p.), a Bloomberg View columnist and editorial board member, the system of criminal justice in America is a complete disgrace. Although having faith in and dedication to the legal system, Eric Holder, a prosecutor and Attorney General, admitted in his address of the state of affairs in the national justice that the system was broken. However, in Clive Crook’s personal estimation, Holder’s assessment should have sounded more skeptical, for the system is in a deplorable state, to put it mildly. America is an unforgiving country, which citizens have an utmost belief in harsh punishment for felonies. What should be taken into consideration is that as many as 2.074 federal prisoners are serving their life terms for nonviolent perpetrations, without them being eligible for parole. Interestingly, the country that places freedom above everything else has practically voided trial by jury. In 97% of federal legal cases, prisoners at the bar plead guilty. What prosecutors are mostly doing is plea-bargaining, which is negotiating more moderate classification of crimes defendants will be articled for as a result. Corruption or no corruption, this is nothing short of an assault on liberty proceeds on the part of judges who become the ones to rubber-stamp judicial decisions possibly for simplicity reasons. There is no denying corruption has nothing to do with such legal decisions. Congress has gone as far as to criminalize a new series of activities. A cornerstone principle of common law, guilty mind has now been declared null and void, which means people may be jailed for doing something they were unaware of at the time of committing a perpetration (Crook n.p.). Beyond doubt, such legal precedent will untie the hands of corrupt judges who no longer need substantial evidence to prove the accused guilty of committing certain felonies or delinquencies.
More than that, Congress has enforced mandatory minimum sentences that deny courts their right of considering the so-called mitigating circumstances that would lessen the culpability of law offenders. The piece of legislation enacted will cause plenty of the accused to serve extensive prison terms dictated by the dissolute rule, with even judges being less willing to pass verdicts based on the new law. Hence, plea-bargaining, zero mitigating circumstances to consider, and the practice of stacking charge upon charge in succession endue prosecutors with bizarre powers of intimidation and a plethora of opportunities to make corrupt decisions sending thousands of innocent people behind the bars for life. The principle of checks and balances, or the one of mutual restraint and interconnection, is the case in all systems of power other than judicial. Criminal justice just does not depend on the incorruptibility of employees, whereas executive and legislative branches do. Crook (n.p.) goes on to note that plea-bargaining and compulsory minimum sentences come into collision with constitutional requirements of “equal protection of the laws” as well as “due process”. In expert’s opinion, the absence of a parole opportunity for nonviolent perpetrations is nothing but a “cruel and unusual punishment”, which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the American constitution. Californian three-strike rule, which makes the third consecutive felony punishable by imprisonment for life, is a legal practice leaving plenty of room for corruption. To quote an example, the Supreme Court sentenced an offender for life imprisonment for him having stolen nine video cassettes (Crook n.p.). As may be deduced from the above, not only does American forensic legislation violate the Constitution, but also it creates a perfect climate for corruption.
According to Harris-Gershon (n.p.), the fact that the population of inmates in federal private prisons has risen by 784% in 10 years’ time speaks volumes for how corrupt and damaged the system of justice is. As of 2010, overall jail population was 18% as much as it used to be prior to 1999. Private prison population appears to have become five times the pre-2009 level in 2010. The increase is largely attributable to the war on drugs, strict conviction guidelines, the above-mentioned compulsory minimum sentences, and three-strike laws. It is easy to track down the reasons of such increase trends. The fact of the matter is that prison companies, such as the GEO group and CAA or Correction Corporation of America are granted contracts at the federal and state levels. On paper, such move is supposed to relieve state budget of heavy expenses on inmate upkeep. In reality, such approach to incarcerating prisoners turns them into precious commodities. The point is that the more prisoners there are, the more money such companies will get. Thus, it is their core interest to enter into what is a corrupt and immoral agreement with the judicial body. Judges thrive on such relationship and mutually profitable agreements they enter into with private companies fixated on keeping citizens imprisoned for as long a period as possible.
In all probability, private prison companies and the judicial branch bodies go hand in hand with each other, with plenty of examples of judicial corruption and collusion in place. The CCA made a proposal of buying and managing prisons of 48 states provided that the authorities keep correctional facilities at least 90% full. The gloss of discretion aside, this is an act of corruption since local law enforcement agencies see particular interest in meting out unjust punishment in the shape of extensive prison terms. It is because police can convert criminals into money, not because crime is at its highest that the country has prisons constantly stuffed with offenders. Police and court corruption seem the main contributors to the increase in incarceration rates. Hence, profit-oriented prison companies are seen lobbying for stricter conviction guidelines to be enforced as well as clamoring against the decriminalization of marijuana possession and consumption. CAA’s 2010 yearly report suggests that lenient releasing on parole, the relaxation of law enforcement efforts, and the decriminalization of the now criminal activities will adversely affect the demand for their services and facilities (Harris-Gershon n.p.). Based on this piece of knowledge, it is safe to admit that the legal system will remain corrupt for as long as such prison companies derive profits from incarcerating prisoners.
Harris-Gershon (n.p.) cites an example of judicial corruption, with two Pennsylvania judges indicted on the charge of selling juveniles to private correctional facilities in exchange for millions of dollars. Shocking is that judges sold innocent children who need not have received jail terms to detention facilities. The scandal came to be known as “kids for cash”. It appears that the Americans have allowed free market pursuits to penetrate into the system of justice. Here where prisoners become commercial products and the legal system turns into an illegal market place there is no room for justice. However, there is more to it than that. The resounding number of African-Americans put behind the bars along with private jail industry has virtually resuscitated a contemporary slave trade (Harris-Gershon n.p.). Stereotypical misconception of the black Americans’ being guaranteed law offenders who distribute illicit substances only adds to corruptibility and multiple miscarriages of justice. White drug traffickers and dealers may take advantage of such gender-based misconception to hide their criminal activities by bribing judges who will have no problems proving the blacks guilty of drug crimes, especially seeing that race-biased society readily accepts such attitude.
According to Pepys (6), corruption in the system of justice can take place at any stage of court procedure, whether during a criminal investigation or the submission of a civil lawsuit. Since judicial branch includes such law enforcement agency as police, it is wise to consider how corruption may unfold from the lowest level of the system of justice. In reward for money, police functionaries can strangle the submission of police reports, garble the proofs of a crime, become actively involved in delaying tactics to the point when evidence against law offenders go useless due to loss or destruction, or refuse to conduct investigation. Having discretionary commissions, police can protect rather than investigating criminal cases, in which wealthy and politically powerful citizens may get involved. Police officers can go all the way to committing robbery or rape in the investigation of other crimes. American police are no strangers to putting a stop to legal cases, halting investigations, or eliminating proofs. Even if police abide by professional ethics and does its job properly, the discretion prosecutors possess enables them to throw obstacles in the way of lawful processing of legal cases.
According to Pepys (6-7), prosecutors can put the processing or case investigations on hold in a similar vein. A number of government ministries can use their enormous powers to apply pressure to public prosecutors in order that they will hold a prosecution of criminals in abeyance. Judicial functionaries may become involved in other criminal procedures, such as the unjustifiable refusal to bail the accused out of roundhouse for trial, the inconsequent issuance of multiple subpoenas to summon the accused before the judge, the divergence in prosecuting between mediocre offenders and high-profile law perpetrators. Other corrupt deeds may also come in the shape of unwarranted and baseless discharge of criminals, and the discrepancies in sentencing. Court procedures themselves are byzantine and covert, which means legal predicaments await those filing civil lawsuits at every turn (Pepys 7). It is well-documented that the American forensic system suggests bail opportunities to the accused as well as guaranteeing the fair prosecution of law offenders irrespective of social standing. Still, governmental pressure and illicit bail refusal are dominating the legal system to a degree.
Court employees may be willing to overreach the administrative process for their personal financial benefit. A large number of responsibilities, powers, and little supervision by court administrators provide such officials with plenty of opportunities of manipulating rules and procedures to their personal advantage. They go as far as to expedite or halt legal cases without a supervisory staff detection. Losing and finding criminal cases are also within the scope of their corrupt activities. For a fee, court personnel deny or allow access to certain judges. The possibility of them assigning legal cases in reward for money is also the case in the American system of justice. Litigants who are unable to cover legitimate court process fees, to say nothing of illegal payments to court officials may have no access whatsoever to impartial justice. The ones who seek such corrupt personnel are lawyers. If truth be told, they are excellent at differentiating between professionally sound and corrupt court employees who have no problems accepting bribes, knowing there is a mediocre chance of being caught cheating right on the spot (Pepys 7). All these examples of power abuse are the case in the USA to the degree that allows calling the system corrupt; however, it does not necessarily mean that there is no place for just and impartial decisions.
Since the system is rotten to the core and requires handling, it is important that American judicial officials introduce changes. What better way to make changes than to adopt corruption-fighting techniques elaborated by foreign colleagues? Dr. Mechthild Runger (26) comes up with valuable ideas of how to revolutionize penal system. The majority of principles are perfectly applicable to forensic functionaries who pass legal verdicts. As has been mentioned above, penal system is a part of a complex judicial system and the enforcer of legal decisions. Runger (26) notes that transparency and the monitoring of both law enforcement and penal entity should become the focal point of a new system. Whoever oversteps authority must be subject to sanctions imposed regardless of status.
Appropriate technical equipment, unequivocal procedural structures, and decision-making authority are what efficient complaint systems, organizational, and administrative management need to guarantee law enforcement. Professional appointments to all posts should remain objective and transparent. The scope of commissions with regard to the conditions of imprisonment and early release should be up for limiting, with external institutions overseeing the procedure of release on parole. Independent individuals and bodies must receive opportunities of surveying inmates (Runger 26). Inmate survey by independent committees is an important novelty to introduce since corrupt representatives of the penal system may be found to have their share of responsibility for inhumane imprisonment conditions. Professional appointment of prosecutors, police officers, and judges to vacant positions and the limitation of powers are the most important measures to take in order to reform the legal system.
Runger (26-27) also suggests that the procedure of appointing and promoting officials be made more transparent in the legal system. In publicizing vacant positions, issuing job descriptions, and stating strict profile requirements, corruption may decline in due course. It is a very efficient approach studying the personal background of an applicant for penal system so that any connections with inmates behind the bars might be identified (Runger 27). The same applies to forensic officials involved in passing sentences or investigating legal cases. Such approach will make it impossible for corrupt officials to enter into a relationship with the indicted or their lawyers. Individuals with a clean, unstained record are far less likely to accept bribes, as opposed to their counterparts who may have had a history with various criminal groups. In politics, this process may be referred to as lustration, or the disclosure of personal files, which allows tracing the history of connections or affiliation with certain outlawed organizations. This will clearly bar mafia associates from courts and police departments. According to Runger (27), it is important finding the conflicts of interest to ensure impartiality regulations. Legal supervisors should monitor the acceptance of bounties and privileges in the framework of conduct code. Mandatory revelation of personal shares and assets in companies as well as that of personal relationships is about as important as a check of personal background. Clearly, bribe money accepted, whether by court officials, judges, prosecutors, or police officers, are traceable while close monitoring of personal bank accounts will disable the very possibility of having the lawyers pleading for criminals transfer money to such accounts.
According to Runger (27), there should be no professional contact between supervisory staff and indicted criminals since they may establish personal connections. Penal structure may remain transparent only if a reliable supervisory system is established, enabling prisoners to issue well-grounded complaints even anonymously, if need be. The expert recommends internal and external audit through ombudspersons. Audit is a must-introduce measure for the entire legal system since uncontrolled court officials and prosecutors use their administrative resources to manipulate legal cases. Once legal supervisors oversee their activity, there will be no chance for them to overstep their authority for money. Runger (27) suggests establishing a hotline to enable citizens to report about corruption in an anonymous way. Justice and penal system officials should be made accountable for the dissonance between employees lifestyle and the rate of income. Every effort should be made to let the working conditions of penal system officials be appropriate by assigning fair income and pensions, creating special rewards and bonuses for those abiding by the code of professional ethics (Runger 27). This principle applies perfectly to forensic officials, such as judges, prosecutors, and police officers for a variety of reasons. In most cases, inadequate payment and the lack of bonuses is the reason that causes forensic dignitaries to accept bribes and deteriorate the system of justice. Not being paid properly, such officials cannot provide their families with adequate social standards. Needless to say that the relationship between the system of justice and private prison companies needs rupturing, or else sentences issued by courts will remain partial, extensive, and purely commercial.
Overall, the US system of criminal justice faces plenty of challenges, of which corruption is one of the biggest. It appears that wealthy citizens and imposing political functionaries are the only ones to have perfect access to the system of justice, which is harsh and unforgiving, for plenty of individuals are serving life terms for nonviolent crimes without any chance of being released on parole. Prosecutors and judges plea-bargain, rubber-stamp sentencing decisions, take advantage of mandatory minimum sentences, and disregard mitigating circumstances. Congress enforced most of the mentioned changes to the system of justice, which has created perfect conditions for power abuse and corruption. Forensic branch happens to be the only one that does not rely on the incorruptibility of employees and the principle of balances and checks. What is more, it does violate the Eighth Amendment and a series of constitutional rights. To make matters significantly worse, justice system functionaries have come to introduce connections with private prison companies who seek particular profit in buying the convicted.
A number of judges have already been found guilty of selling innocent people to such detention facilities. All signs point to the system of justice turning into a market slave system where people indicted on certain charges become nothing short of commercial goods. Overall, American police, judges, court officials and prosecutors are used to accelerating or halting legal cases, losing them or finding in exchange for money, denying or granting access to judges, refusing to provide the accused with bail, parole release and other privileges. Still, it is not that every legal dignitary is prone to accepting bribes. Rather, it is that unfair practices have become an integral part of the USA forensic structure. This notwithstanding, there is room for optimism and potential for changes. German colleagues have come up with a plethora of corruption-fighting measures, such as the revelation of personal accounts, background checks, close supervision of judicial system officials, the monitoring of their connections with inmates, the implementation of internal and external audits, the establishment of a special hotline and the introduction of the system of bonuses. If applied by purified and professional officials, all these measures and approaches should yield positive results and make American justice a fair and impartial branch of power.
Crook, Clive. “U.S. Criminal Justice Is a Disgrace.” Bloomberg View. 14 August 2013. n.p. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.
Harris-Gershon, “America’s Corrupt Justice System: Federal Private Prison Population Grew 784% in 10 Year Span.” Alter Net. 23 May 2013. n.p. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.
Pepys, Mary Noel. “Corruption and the Justice Sector.” Management Systems International. 2003. 1-21. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.
Runger Mechthild. “Preventing Corruption in the Judiciary System.” Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit. 2005. 1-38. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.