Critical Issues in the American Criminal Justice System - Sentencing Decisions and the Death Penalty

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Critical Issues in the American Criminal Justice System:
Sentencing Decisions and the Death Penalty

Richard W Ramsay

Dr. Allen Lowery
CJ 6624 – Court Administration
December 1, 2010


This paper discusses three critical issues in the criminal justice system. It touches on the general issues of punishment philosophies, sentence decision making, and prison overcrowding and focused more specifically on the negative effects of each. Highlighted in this informational paper is the interrelated nature of the issues; each issue affects and is affected by the others. Data and information has been gathered from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Amnesty International, the NAACP Legal Defense …show more content…

375) and by using this hedonistic calculus people will refrain from committing crimes. This concept focuses on the punishment fitting the criminal and on preventing future crimes from occurring. The three most important factors in effectively deterring a criminal from further crimes are the severity of the punishment, the certainty of the punishment, and the swiftness of the punishment. If criminal doesn’t believe he will be punished or he feels the punishment is minor in comparison to the crime or if the punishment is not swift enough, then he/she will not be deterred from committing crimes. Studies on the effectiveness of deterrence have shown to be inconclusive. The deficient areas of deterrence are crimes committed in the heat of passions, crimes committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the massive backlog of cases in the nation’s courts (Neubauer & Fradella, 2008). Incapacitation, the removal of the offender from society to prevent them from harming society further, has been in use since ancient times. The incapacitation may be in the form of exile, penal colonies, prison, or placement in a mental institution. Regardless of the form, incapacitation places its focus on the future behavior of the offender and on the characteristics of the offender. It assumes that since that majority of crime is committed by a small number of criminals, removing them from society will reduce crime. What this theory does not take in to

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