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Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice Essay

The United States Criminal Justice System is a fundmental part to society that focuses on protecting citizens in the United States Constiution as well as ensuring each individual is law adbiding law and not commiting serious acts of crimes. Each law was put in state and federal statues to ensure it continues and as time has changed some of the laws have not changed. In present day, the criminal justice system faces comptemporary issues as well as trends that not only affect today but in the future and how important each member of society hold a significant value to the criminal justice system. For many decades the criminal justice system has endured many issues and problems that are currently questioning exactly how fair United States Criminal Justice system is to citizens and criminals that participate in both misdeameanor and violent offenses.

The Corrections Department is one specific department that faces many controversies involving the validilty of one’s constitutional right of the Eighth Amendment. The Founding Fathers created one of the famous amendments that prohibits the law from enforcing cruel and unusual punishment in capital punishment. At one time, capital punishment consisted of electrocution, firing squad, and the gas chamber. Unfortunately, many individuals believe that this form of punishments were cruel and unusual and many states eliminated these methods in their executions. In present day, lethal injection is the new method used in state executions that have not banned the death penalty as a form of punishment. The death penalty is used in only 32 states as of 2014 however the re-creation of lethal drug cocktail makes the world ponder if the lethal injection method is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

The issue of the new combination of lethal injections drugs have many opposers speculating should the death row inmate have the legal right to know exactly what is behind the newly developed death penalty drugs as well as if it against the Eighth Amendment. Two death row inmates in the State of Oklahoma pleaded with the higher courts to disclose any information pertaining to the ingredients of the drugs however the Oklahoma Supreme Court specifically stated, “This court holds that the secrecy provision … does not violate the inmates’ constitutional right of access to the courts. The Oklahoma Supreme Court said the only remaining issue, then, is whether the state’s failure to disclose its source for the drugs prevents the prisoners from challenging their executions using the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The court decided it did not”(CNN,2014). Following the ruling, the stay of executions of Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett were uplifted and were scheduled to a double execution on April 29, 2014 that would forever change the proper protocols of execution guidelines and the Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment. Clayton Lockett received the first injection around 6:23 pm and ten minutes following his injection he was unconscious. After the doctor noticed he was unconscious he administered the last two drugs that would execute Clayton Lockett. Between 6:44 and 6:56 pm the doctor that was administering the medical procedures of the execution addressed that the inmates vein had collapased that led for the drugs to either absorb in his tissue or leaked out(The Guardian ,2014). Immediately the inmate passed away of a massive heart attack.

Following the execution, the other inmate that was supposed to be execute right after Lockett did not face the punishment and currently he is on a 180 day stay until the state government can conduct a full investigation into the botched execution. Supporters of the death penalty believe the execution was conducted appropriately however opposers believe he faced a slow painful death. The question remains will the death penalty in the State of Oklahoma be abolished or test the drugs before they are administered on death row inmates. As much as someone may commited such a heinous crime such as Lockett and Warner these offenders are given rights off all the amendments of the United States Constitution and it is their right to address violations to higher courts so they can determine if it did occur. The death penalty has many advantages and disadvantages and the criminal justice system is constantly fighting the battle to keep it alive and well.

Prison overcrowding is another contemporary issue that is currently affecting the criminal justice throughout the United States. Society is aware of the consequences involving committing a crime, however for offenses that are considered non-violent and the offender who has not been in trouble with the law in the past faces severe punishment such as a violent offender. Drug offenses is one crime that caused correctional facilities population to skyrocket and instead of finding the best alternative for punishment prisons face an unkinown number of crimes within the facilities. In the State of Oklahoma, approximately 26, 539 offenders are incarcerated in priosn whereas probation has a population of 21,085(American Legislative Exchange Council,2014). Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition(n.d.) states,” Prior to the current prohibition era the U.S. Prison population was a quarter of what it is today. But 30 years ago the “War on Drugs” was launched.

Before that the prison population had been level for over 5 decades. 70 to 75% of people in prison are drug war prisoners. Drug use, arrest and incarceration rates along with data on sentence length show that people of color unfairly bear the brunt of the drug war”(para.4). The war on drugs is the primary reason for the increasingly amount of prisoners in facilities throughout the United States and if state legislation ever comes to the decision to stop the battle more likely overcrowding will not be a substanstive issue. Additional reasons why the American Corrections system is overcrowded are mandatory minimum sentencing, denial of parole, unaffordable bail, poverty, and Post Incarceration Syndrome.

The final contemporary issue that is facing the criminal justice today is the increasing amount of complaints involving police officers that are involving in police bruatility and excessive use of force. As society has learned in the past of cases of Rodney King, it happened then and it is still happening. However, just because one cop does it does not mean all of them do it. The most current case involving police brutality and excessive use of force involves the Albuquerque Police Department. Recently, certain police officers went against their oath and maliciously killed members of society. The circumstances are unknown and the Justice Department has conducted a through investigation stating that the police department “the officers kicked, punched and violently restrained nonthreatening people, and seldom were the officers reprimanded.

Many of the victims suffered from mental illnesses, and some were disabled, elderly or drunk, the 16-month investigation concluded. The changes called for by the Justice Department — 44 remedies in all — included extensive revisions to the department’s use-of-force policies. The term “force” would be more clearly defined, and officers would have to report to superiors when they used various tactics: chokeholds, kicks, leg sweeps and tackles. Under the recommendations, officers would be trained to rely more on verbal warnings and less on stun guns, and new recruits would be required to undergo psychological, medical and polygraph examinations to assess their fitness for the job”(New York Times,2014). As much as the recommendations should be followed, more cases of police brutatlity and excessive force in Albuqueruqe happen however it seems officers refuse to listen to the recommendations and choose what is best for them.

Some may feel threatened when they encounter someone but there are other methods instead of physically harming someone or murdering the subject. One of the most recent trends that is currently affecting the criminal justices that will more likely affect it in the future is the increasing amount of crimes involving youths. In the past, youths were not subjected to violence and since the internet evolved and other environmental factors so much is at stake. One particular area where society is seeing violence are in areas that at one time that they thought was safe such as schools and movies. The Aurora Thetre Shooting and various school shootings continue to happen and for innocent individuals fear is in their minds on a daily basis. The reasons the youth commits serious acts like these vary however most cases involved the lack of mental healthcare and as well as bullying.

The perpertrators feel that the victims hurt them in some manner that led them to harm an entire school. In addition, technology is a severe problem for the criminal justice system today and will continue as long as the internet is available. Identity Theft is the newest trend in computer crimes and all it takes is a click of a button and the criminal soughting out the information can have access to someone’s life in a matter of seconds(Muraskin & Roberts,2009). Prevention is the only recommendation in both youth violence and cybercrimes that will eventually decrease the current trends occurring in the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system hold a significant value in today’s changing society by ensuring each citizen of the United States is lawfully protected by their consititutional rights as well as ensuring that local, state, and federal governments following proper protocol, procedures, and polices on keeping society away from harm that he or she could possibly face.

The only problem that society has with the criminal justice system is the lack of mistrust invididuals have based on past incidents and discrepanices that makes person’s make the assumption that all professionals do not care of their well being or are not going above and beyond to protect them. Current trends and comtemproary issues within the criminal justice system will remain in society for many years to come. Capital punishment, prison overcrowding, and police brutality affect the justice system in a variety of ways but to society each problem can be fixed by following proper procedures. As for trends, technology and youth violence is uncertain but the best method is to find resources and methods to eliminate trends in the cirminla justice system in the future. As much as society places the criminal justice system as good or bad it is something needed to protect everyone from constitutional violations as well as from heinous acts of crime.


American Legislative Exchange Council . (2014). Prison Overcrowding: Oklahoma. Retrieved from http://www.alec.org/initiatives/prison-overcrowding/prison-overcrowding-oklahoma/ CNN. (2014). Oklahoma executions back on, as court rules to keep lethal-drug sources secret. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/24/justice/oklahoma-court-execution-drugs/ Muraskin, R., & Roberts, A. R. (2009). Visions For Change: Crime and Justice in the 21st Century (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. New York Times. (2014). Justice Dept. Accuses Albuquerque Police of Excessive Force. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/11/us/albuquerque-police-report-justice-department.html?_r=1 Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition (SHaRC). (n.d.). What Causes Overcrowding in Jails and Prisons?. Retrieved from http://www.massdecarcerate.org/download/overcrowding.pdf The Guardian. (2014). Oklahoma execution of Clayton Lockett – timeline of the botched procedure. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2014/may/01/oklahoma-execution-clayton-lockett-timeline-document

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