The importance of criminal justice policies within the judiciary system cannot be understated. The criminal justice system impacts every single person on this planet as they are public policies that are used to maintain some essential factors which keep the general populace safe, maintain social stability, and- to put it bluntly- avoid anarchy!
The criminal justice system has three goals that a range of various policies strive to uphold: to protect the public from injustice; to maintain social order, and to enforce the law in a fair and appropriate manner to ensure this protection.
A range of social, economic, and political matters are covered within criminal justice policies in order to uphold the fundamental values on which our society is based, such as drug laws, legislation surrounding the eradication of abusive behaviors, national security regulations, and more.
With this in mind, we are going to be taking a look at some particular criminal justice policies that focus on some of the most important elements when it comes to maintaining a stable society and providing aid to those who need it the most.
The American Bar Association- a voluntary bar association for lawyers and law students – provides a comprehensive list of criminal justice policies from 1996 to the present day from across the United States, so let’s take a look at some particularly noteworthy ones and discuss their importance.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA 1994)
Created in 1994, this act was intended to recognize the severity of violent acts against women and improve the criminal justice response to said violence appropriately. Some of the regulations applied to try and enforce the VAWA are as follows:
- Increasing police response to crisis calls.
- Providing funds to train more than 500,000 law professionals- such as law enforcement officers, judges, victim advocates, and prosecutors- to understand the realities of sexual and domestic violence towards women and allow them to act accordingly to each individual case.
- Mandating victims of all incomes to ensure that they do not have to pay for their own service of protection orders or for medical examinations.
- Increasing the sentencing, conviction, and persecution rates of offenders via the development of law enforcement and prosecution units within communities that specialize in domestic violence.
- Strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and rapists.
- Establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Focusing attention on underserved communities with regulations put in place for those who desperately need it, such as legal relief for immigrants to make sure that their immigrant status cannot be used against them by their abusers.
These are just a few of the regulations put forth by the VAWA policy,, but it has certainly had an effect on domestic violence cases in the United States since its inception, with a 67% decline in intimate partner violence between 1993 and 2010.
There has also been an increase in reports regarding domestic and sexual violence to the police and the rate of female homicides for intimate partners decreasing by 35% and male homicides for intimate partners decreasing by 46% between 1993 and 2007.
Domestic violence is an issue that is experienced by both men and women worldwide, and it can often be a difficult subject to tackle- with many preferring to unnecessarily keep these problems behind closed doors- and so maintaining criminal justice policies to punish offenders and protect survivors is essential.
The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women of 1979
Much like the VAWA policy, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is a policy that revolves around the treatment of women (although the VAWA is related to women in the title, it also focuses on male survivors of domestic abuse).
This policy was adopted at the United Nations General Assembly back in 1979 and is described as an international “bill of rights” for women, with thirty articles and a preamble that define what constitutes discrimination towards women whilst also creating an agenda for national action to put an end to said discrimination.
Let’s take a look at some of the key regulations included in this criminal justice policy
- Eliminating any and all discriminatory acts towards women from any kind of enterprise, organization, or persons.
- Creating tribunals and public institutions specifically directed towards the protection of women against discrimination.
- Incorporating equality of women and men within the legal system by abolishing any and all discriminatory laws and adopting new laws that prohibit this kind of discrimination.
Equality for all and the abolishment of discrimination is a factor that every country needs to work vehemently towards, as mutual respect and equality is one of the most basic of human rights. This law is clearly an important one, signaling the beginning of change for women across the world.
The Gun Control Act of 1968
Prompted by the assassination of John. F Kennedy in 1963, the Gun Control Act was an incredibly controversial policy in American history that prompted a long-running political debate due to the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right for citizens to bear arms.
It wasn’t the first gun control-themed act that Congress passed (that was the National Firearms Act, which passed in 1934 following a significant rise in gang violence in the 1920s), but the assassination made it so that politicians had no choice but to focus on regulating firearms and the laws surrounding them.
Whilst the Gun Control Act did not completely contain gun registration provisions or owner licensing (it mostly focuses on rules around the purchase of firearms), the act did create some significant restrictions in regard to gun control in the United States and was the first bill to do so since the aforementioned National Firearms Act.
These restrictions are what caused some debate, due to some believing the act to be “unconstitutional” due to the Second Amendment.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the policies that came about from the Gun Control Act:
- Firearms could no longer be purchased by anyone under the age of 18.
- Imported guns not used for sport- such as hunting- were no longer allowed,
- All firearms have to be marked with a serial number in order to be able to track the weapons if need be.
- Blocking the sales of firearms to those who might be considered a “danger to society” such as those with prior felony convictions- including prison sentences of over a year-, those who have been found guilty of unlawfully possessing or using controlled substances within the last year and those who have been involuntarily committed to any sort of mental institutions.
- Background checks became mandatory for those who wished to purchase a firearm.
These were just a few of the regulations introduced by the Gun Control Act,, but it is clear that this is still a topical issue today, with gun violence continuing to rise. Whilst the act established policies to help lower the stats in regard to gun crime, there is still much to be done.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1988
The protection of children is another incredibly important factor when it comes to the world we currently live in and so in 1988, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was created with the intention of setting up legislation to help prevent children from having to live under abusive conditions.
There have been acts and policies established since the inception of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (or CAPTA) – including a revision of the act itself in 2016- but due to its importance, let’s take a look at some of the policies and legislation involved with the CAPTA.
- Providing financial assistance to programs targeted at the treatment, prevention, and identification of child neglect and abuse.
- Establish a National Center for Child Abuse. This center was established within the Children’s Bureau in the Department of Health and Human Services as an agency of the United States Federal government. Although this was later be abolished by the 1996 reauthorization of the CAPTA, it would lead to the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect to be set up (or OCAN) which would coordinate the functions that the National Center previously did and is still running to this day.
- Acknowledging the role of the federal government with supporting technical assistance, research, and collection of data in regard to the statistics for child abuse and neglect.
- Mandate the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect. The National Clearinghouse was established before the CAPTA was set up in 1974 and is an organization that organizes, collects, and disseminates information about child maltreatment.
- Presenting a minimum definition in regard to child neglect and child abuse.
This is a subject that is also still prevalent in our modern society and so the importance of maintaining and building on various policies, laws, and legislation surrounding child abuse is absolutely critical.