Communication is defined as the “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior (“Communication,” 2011). The two most common types of communication are verbal and non-verbal forms of communication as professionals in the criminal justice system must be able to speak and write clearly and coherently. Being able to effectively communicate verbally also requires attentive listening skills to adequately understand what a person is saying.
A lack of listening skills is an issue within the criminal justice system as the average listener only hears, understands, and retains 50 percent of what is actually being said (Mathewson, 2009).
With the significant increase in cultural diversity in the United States, language barriers are another issue in the criminal justice system. A non-native person that does not speak English and has learned English as a second language may cause a decrease in the clarity of a verbal conversation; as a result, many law enforcement agencies are not sufficiently staffed to communicate in different languages (Mathewson, 2009).
Almost 25 million people living in the United States are not proficient English speakers, which mean that they require an interpreter to ensure that their rights are protected (Chen, 2009). Out of 35 states with significant immigration, almost half of these states do not guarantee interpreters in some court cases (Chen, 2009). For example, one study identified a Korean domestic violence survivor that could not speak fluent English.
The judge denied her request for a restraining order because he could not understand what she was saying (Chen, 2009).
Law enforcement personnel should also be aware of cultural differences in non-verbal communication in order to effectively communicate with different cultures. For example, people of Hispanic origin often embrace physical closeness while touching and hugging may make Native Americans feel uncomfortable. Effective communication is often not achieved in the criminal justice system as a result unclear, wordy statements.
Reports by attorneys should be brief and concise to decrease the chances that their reports will be thrown out (Mathewson, 2009). Body language is yet another issue in the court system. People unconsciously give off non-verbal clues that can indication nervousness, agitation, and dishonesty. Non-verbal and verbal communication collective tell the entire story and, usually, less is more. Improving Communications Plan and the Court Cultural changes and technological advances are changing the face of communication throughout the world and the criminal justice system should also adapt to successfully deal with these changes. The court system should utilize technology to improve the communication within the courtroom and with the public. Websites should be attractively designed highlighting important information such as policy updates and important contacts. This method of communication should be update frequently so that people receive accurate, up to date information.
Video conferencing, web seminars, online meetings, and podcasts can also be utilized by the criminal justice systems providing a more convenient means of communication (Berch, 2010). Court officials and the public should be educated on policies and principles of the court system. This can be accomplished with the development of an annual statewide Law Day program, Law programs geared toward senior citizens, and educational programs for the youth.
Efforts should also be initiated to enhance communication between minority bar associations and historical Caucasian bar associations; implementing collaborative plans that include the help of bar associations, legal services and community organizations can significantly improved communication within the legal systems and communities. The multiple branches of the government must also work together and communicate clearly and effectively to ensure the success of the court system (Berch, 2010).
Law enforcement agencies, the judicial branch, and all other key players at the local, state, and federal levels of the criminal justice system can work together to increase the equity, efficiency and effectiveness of the national justice system. The United States Department of Justice works with the Bureau of Justice Assistance and other federal and state officials to develop programs that promote effective communication and cooperation among the different levels of government (Meyers, 2004). Each level of the government can work together strategically to improve communications within the court system.
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