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Crime Control vs. Due Process and Discretion

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Today, there are two main competing models of justice, the Due Process Model, and the Crime Control Method. The Due Process Model (DPM) is known as obstacle course justice with an ideology that relies on the formal structure of the law and legal guilt. The DPM’s primary goals are to protect the due process rights of the accused and limiting the powers of the state. It runs completely with an underlying assumption of innocence, making it not so effective at all times. The Crime Control Method (CCM), on the other hand is known as assembly line justice. It has an ideology that centers on efficiency and effectiveness of the system and factual guilt. The CCM’s primary goals are to protect society from crime and to control the behavior of the community. This process uses and informal fact finding process through the police and prosecutors. Also contrary to the DPM the CCM operates under a presumption of guilt.

The CCM of justice is focused on detaining the accused and securing convictions, making it very effective in preventing crime however somehow you have to step on some toes. These two models and methods occur all the time in the criminal justice system we see today, and there is much controversy behind which process should dominate. In 1984 Sherman and Berk published their overall case study on “The Specific Deterrent Effects of Arrest for Domestic Assault”. This study supported a more CCM ideology of justice. However in 1988 Binder and Meeker published an article critiquing the methods and conclusions of the original study, offering a counterpoint.

Sherman and Berk’s “The Specific Deterrent Effects of Arrest for Domestic Assault” is the primary source for the Minneapolis Experiment. The experiment was groundbreaking in the world of criminology. The study presented results that supported desires for an effective and tough alternative to law enforcements role in domestic abuse. On a different note the Minneapolis Experiment demonstrated the potential impact that empirical research can have on police practice, policy, and this the criminal justice system in its entirety. In this experiment three different intervention strategies were used at misdemeanor domestic abuse incidents. These were: arrest, forced 8 hour separation, or mediation. Sherman and Berk admit that the methodology could have been problematic however they still stand that it produced a large sample (314 cases) with apparently unbiased victim responses. The results showed that most of the incidents occurred among married couples with little to no educational background and largely minority or mixed race.

Through police record, and victim interviews, the response that produced the lowest recidivism rate was arrest, while the highest rate was in the forced separation. Any jail time was so short in most of the cases that Sherman and Berk maintained that incapacitation could not have been a notable factor in the decreased repeat violence. They concluded that their results demonstrate an apparent deterrent effect in arrests. However they suggested that presumptive arrest and not mandatory arrest policies be instituted. The authors believe that although arrests may work for most offenders, they do not work for all, thus they felt the police force should still keep some degree of discretion.

In 1988 Binder and Meeker published an article in the Journal of Criminal Justice critiquing the methods used in Sherman and Berk’s Minneapolis study. They believed that the results of the Minneapolis Experiment were the only factor influencing the new overwhelming change in police policies. They went on to say that it’s irresponsible to rely on the one factor and ignore possible problems with external and internal validity in the experiment. Different jurisdictions have varying policies on incarceration and detainment following an arrest. Minneapolis is unusual in that their policy is to keep an arrested suspect overnight, and the authors feel the findings could not be generalized to all areas and jurisdictions. Binder and Meeker also expressed that the alternatives used in the experiment are not the only possible alternatives to making an arrest. The authors made a conclusion that none of the sanctions introduced in the Minneapolis Experiment are concrete enough to support such a tremendous shift in police department policy.

These two conflicting views bring up a common argument going back to the DPM and the CCM. The Due Process ideology would support the use of police discretion in situations like domestic abuse. While the Crime Control ideology on the other hand, would advocate the mandatory arrest policy, hoping to take a more proactive approach, and do anything possible to help prevent future crimes/incidents regardless of police discretion. The proactive method seems like the better decision at the surface solely because it should virtually lower the amount of domestic incidents occurring. However to eliminate police discretion in its entirety would overall cripple the criminal justice system as a whole. If a police officer doesn’t have the authority to decide whether or not an incident is worth his time or effort, the system would overflow with dead ends and unnecessary cases, ultimately wasting police resources and could potentially weaken the system. In some situations, it is definite that a police officer’s efforts could be better put to use at a different location or incident while he’s in the process of arresting a drunken husband who simply started yelling a little too loud.

Personally, I believe the correct way to handle the dispute would be to do exactly what Sherman and Berk suggested with the findings of their experiment. Police officers should keep the deterrence effects of arrest in their minds; however maintain full discretion depending on the situation. There is no way for an empirical study, no matter how large in sample, to dictate the right calls to make on future incidents that could potentially have thousands of different factors. In the end, Crime Control should be used in moderation to hopefully decrease the amount of incidents and illegal action, however the Due Process method will always prevail in maintaining a fair and operational criminal justice system.

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