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SOC 255 Weeks 1 & 2 Lecture

by: Sarah Vernier-Dolin

SOC 255 Weeks 1 & 2 Lecture SOC 255

Marketplace > Western Washington University > Sociology > SOC 255 > SOC 255 Weeks 1 2 Lecture
Sarah Vernier-Dolin
Western Washington University
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About this Document

These notes cover our in class lectures for the first two weeks of the quarter. They also include added notes from the course textbook.
Social Organization of Criminal Justice
Ronald E. Helms
Class Notes
sociology, Criminal Justice, Due Process, discretion, crime, Law




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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sarah Vernier-Dolin on Thursday October 6, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOC 255 at Western Washington University taught by Ronald E. Helms in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 146 views. For similar materials see Social Organization of Criminal Justice in Sociology at Western Washington University.

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Date Created: 10/06/16
SOC 255 – Weeks 1 & 2 Lecture Notes (also some textbook notes) 9/21 -9/29 Deviance vs. Crime § Not all deviance is criminal; not all crime is deviant o Ex… Ø Telling racist jokes (deviant not criminal) Ø Smoking pot (criminal but not deviant) § Deviance can be posi tive or negative What is Crime? What is Law? § When norms are forced into a legal code – we officially have crime § Technically speaking, without law there is no crime § Laws are norms that are codified & enforced through the use of coercion backed by the authority of the state § Laws are enforced by state sanctioned power o The institutions of the state (police, courts, corrections) can use force to gain compliance o An aside, policing is an arena for the testing of state power, an arena where a balance is sought (too much is bad & so is too little) o Policing provides both protective & repressive functions, often in the same acts. Take protective action for someone by repressing someone else. Law & Power: The Consensus View § In this view, an act is criminal when it offe nds strong & defined states of the collective conscience § Laws are codified norms § The origins of law are rooted in social consensus § The functions of law are to reinforce & reproduce consensus The Conflict View § Societies are composed of diverse groups with different perspectives on morality § Laws will inevitably be shaped by the interests of those who have the most resources to influence law § Powerful groups shape law – it’s a tool of the powerful § This view is a sharp contrast from the consensus view § The conflict held together by force § The origins of law are rooted in social inequality § Functions of law are to reinforce & reproduce inequality Criminal Justice Processes § Criminal justice (CJ) system is a series of decision points & decision making o CJ itself can’t decide anything; it’s the framework for decision making § Two models are the crime control vs. due process models § These (CJ) models highlight the tension inherent in finding the balance between the desire to control crime & efforts to protect individual ri ghts o This is constitutional democracy – balancing community security & individual liberty & privacy o Balance is difficult & no one is ever completely satisfied § Factors that help determine what actions to take, how formal to get o Seriousness of offense o Prior record of offender o The relationship between offender & victim o Strength of legal case Two Systems Working § Formal (law on the books) & informal systems § Both informal & formal decision making are essential Formal Law § Formal law comes from: o US & State Constitutions o States (written laws) o Court decisions o Rule books & written policies § Formal decision making is decision making according to written rules & is open to public view o It consists of apply (& often interpreting) these written rules of formal CJ § Formal law limitations: o Knowing formal sources o Provides little direct insight Informal Processes at Work § Informal decision making – “decision making in action” or “discretionary decision making” § Operates according to the judgments of CJ professionals guided by their education, training, & experience in the field § Less visible § People note their results primarily when they are way out of line § We don’t notice this policing until it gets out of line § Book emphasizes that the use of professional discretion is NOT bad § The informal handling – oriented to solving the problem à discretion is very useful § Later stages of CJ system are interdependent with earlier stages § Hydraulic displacement effec t o Compression of discretion at one point in the system cause discretion to pop up at another point in the system Police Make Many Discretionary Decisions § What to focus on vs. what to ignore § Make an arrest? § Use lethal force? § Prosecutor’s office decision making: whether or not to pursue a prosecution in any single case Legitimate Decision-making vs. Discriminatory Decision-making § Legitimate decision-making: o Also called formal criteria o Produce legal, fair, & smart decisions o Seriousness of offense o Criminal history of offender o Relationship between victim & offender o Strength of case against suspe cts & defendant § Discriminatory decision -making o Produce illegal, discriminatory, & harmful decisions o Race o Sex o Age o Class § Power: who gets what, when & how CJ System – Key Institutions § Police, sheriffs, jails, local courts § Important components in local operation of CJ system § State & federal agencies are part of a larger system § CJ system is made up of actors & agencies that produce o Each stage produces its own products o Law enforcement officers produce suspects when they arrest o Prosecutors produce defendants when they charge suspects with crimes o Courts produce offenders when they convict defendants o Corrections produce ex -offenders when they release them from custody § These results at various stages are interdependent of each other § CJ system boils down to deciding w hether or not to move people further into the system & when & under what conditions to remove people from it Tight Interdependence vs. Loose Coupling § System has sequential links § Not so tightly connected that one stage set the workload for later stages § But the stages don’t coordinate their policies, they set their own policies § Each captures some of the reality of CJ system practices 3 System Models § 1st: path diagram showing how cases are processed to final disposition o Sequential decisions & stages of CJ syst em § 2nd: CJ Wedding Cake Model o See figure 1.2 in your Samaha textbook, page 17 o Cases are organized least to most serious o Order of tiers from the bottom up: misdemeanors, ordinary felonies, real crimes, celebrated cases o Shaped like a cake, because the more h einous the crimes become, the fewer of them exist o All three top tiers are felonies, crimes punishable by a year or more in prison o Celebrated cases (top tier) – the very few felonies that grab public attention because the crime is particularly grisly o Real crimes (2nd tier) – felonies like criminal homicide, rape, aggravated assault, armed robbery o Ordinary felonies (3rd tier) – burglaries, thefts, unarmed robberies where no one got hurt & victim knew offender o Misdemeanors (4th tier) – the vast majority of cases, simple assault, petty theft, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, etc. § Practically none of these cases go to trial § 3rd: Criminal Justice Funnel Model o See figure 1.3 in your Samaha textbook, page 19 o For every arrest a lot more are diverted or dismissed § Book shows 100 arrests by police, as you go through each step of the CJ system the number at each stage falls, until finally only 38 convictions o Majority of cases end in plea bargains Real Crimes § Murder, rape, armed robbery, violent assaults, etc. § Committers have past criminal records § Often strangers to their victims § Guns & other weapons often used § Injury to victims Fourth Tier Cases § Misdemeanors § The process is the punishment § Often in big jurisdiction courts will handle cases en masse, simultaneously Herbert Packers Models: Crime Control & Due Process Crime Control Model § See figure 1.4 in your Samaha textbook, page 20 § CJ exists to control crime for the whole of society § Crime control guarantees social freedom by protecting the people & their property § Crime control operates to secure social freedom by protecting people and their property § Emphasizes locating & punishing c riminals & doing so quickly & efficiently § Delays undermine the clarity of the message of punishment à there are consequences, they’re swift & certain § Frowns on second-guessing & revisiting cases § Crime control is worried about mistakes & unfairness o The need for crime control outweighs the suffering of the few innocent people who get caught up in the system § A conveyor belt model of justice § Reliance on informal practices at the front end of the CJ system , the best way to ensure speed & accuracy § Police interrogation gets the truth faster than examination § Plea negotiations are good – quick & cheap § Guilt is basically assumed Due Process Model § See figure 1.5 in your Samaha textbook, page 23 § Emphasis on fair procedures – procedural justice o Fair procedures means decision making according to formal rules § Strong focus on formal decision making rules o Creating due process obstacles is based on the idea that you can ’t find the trust informally because of human failings § Model relies on the adversary process – getting the truth by fighting in court according to the formal rules of criminal procedure § Suspects/defendants assumed innocent until proven guilty § Based on the distrust of government power & the need to control it § Government has the burden to justify its use of power against those who turn out to be guilty § Fundamental requisite of due process of law is opportunity to be heard § Emphasis on open public adversary process § Distinction between open adversarial & closed inquisitional system § In order to use its power it must first justify that use o By demonstrating & arg uing its case § Obstacle course model of justice CJ Pendulum § Fear of government power = more rules & procedural safeguards à due process § Fear of crime = more discretion, fewer rules, fewer obstacles binding the government in its efforts to control crime à crime control § There are tremendous inequalities in the practice of CJ § Minority overrepresentation in prisons § Different involvement in serious crimes § Bias at subsequent stages of CJ system § Most important problem facing each component of the CJ system is discretion


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