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Learn More. You have selected: This article appears in In WorldCat, verify that the library you select has the specific journal volume and issue in which the article appears. Learn How. Office of Justice Programs. NCJ Number:. In presenting a contextual approach for examining the criminal justice policymaking environment and its accompanying process, this article focuses on the policymaking process, the actors involved in that process the public, professionals, and politicians , and the sites where participants interact and policy decisions are made.

The article begins with the observation that the policymaking process has been largely neglected in studies of crime policy.

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In drawing on Laswell's call for policy researchers to analyze the entire complex, shifting policy universe, this article proposes a contextual approach to criminal justice policy analysis that examines all the variables that influence the policymaking procedure and policy content. Three steps are recommended for such an analysis. The first step involves identifying the various contextual features that are in some measure distinctive to the criminal justice policy environment. The second step consists of organizing this environment into a policy community with a subgovernment and an interested public that has strong opinions about what a policy should be.

This step should expose patterns of power and influence that help shape policy. This will be accomplished through the support of core social institutions, and making strategic long- term investments in evidence-based prevention, intervention, and treatment services. In order to succeed in reducing juvenile crime and the transition to adult criminal careers, adequate resources must be made available for such programs to be readily accessible to all juveniles.

Structure of the Court System: Crash Course Government and Politics #19

Prisons and jails are an inherent part of our criminal justice system, however, overcrowded correctional facilities create significant safety issues within these institutions, limit the effectiveness of rehabilitation programming and represent a significant monetary investment on the part of state and local governments. States and local governments should seek to identify and implement policies to ensure that those presenting with the highest risk are in custody and that classification and treatment throughout the system are evidence based.

Evidence-based policies provide a promising approach to the challenges of an incarcerated population and provide targeted and proven sanctions for offenders based on their risk to the community. Sentencing policies that are evidence-based also provide correctional leaders and administrators with specific tools to manage their facilities safely. The lack of appropriate and necessary treatment for those who suffer from mental illness represents a serious public health and public safety issue.


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Some individuals with mental illness and co-occurring disorders become involved in the criminal justice system, either as victims or as offenders. For effective safety and justice, the system must address the challenges faced by these individuals and the communities where they live and work, even though it is often ill equipped to provide adequate treatment because of lack of resources, lack of staff, legal constraints and infrastructure limitations.

The criminal justice and mental health systems must become partners in addressing the needs of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system. Criminal justice professionals must continue to work with policymakers, law enforcement, mental health providers, community groups, and both public and private sector professionals to educate and to develop solutions to this important health and public safety issue. These interests are not served by over-reliance on cash bonds or bail schedules which result in the unnecessary detention of low risk individuals and the imprudent release of high risk individuals.

In determining the appropriateness of pretrial release and the conditions of release, a validated risk assessment tool should be used to produce the best results for public safety and the individual. The great majority of incarcerated offenders will eventually be released to local communities. Effective reentry programs can play an important role in reducing their risk of reoffending. The goal of reentry programs is to reduce recidivism, thereby improving public safety and helping states and localities reduce their incarcerated populations.

Decision Making in Criminal Justice

Reentry planning and services should begin when offenders are incarcerated and should incorporate a validated risk-assessment tool to guide placement into evidence-based reentry programs. Community supervision should incorporate a continuum of services that address the needs identified while the offender is incarcerated, and should focus on the supervision of higher- risk offenders to reinforce accountability and ensure recidivism reduction. When appropriate upon release, offenders should enter community-based programs created through partnerships between government, community agencies, and faith-based organizations to facilitate access to housing, jobs, family counseling, and behavior health treatments in the communities where offenders live.

The American principles of equal protection and equal justice demand recognition that racial disparities exist throughout the criminal justice system. Minorities are overrepresented among victim and offender populations. Criminal justice professionals should support research and funding to address the factors contributing to these disparities and develop effective policies and best practices to counter these problems. In particular, it is important to distinguish those differences that are a consequence of actions by the criminal justice system and those deriving from factors outside the system.

Criminal justice professionals at all levels should target most specifically those factors arising within the criminal justice system.

Section Politics in Criminal Justice | Criminal Justice

Lawmakers should support these efforts through effective funding and legislation that seeks to correct such disparities. The State Administering Agency SAA is the agency designated by the Governor to manage and administer federal criminal justice grant funds. The SAA serves as the coordinating body for state and local criminal justice issue identification, collaboration, planning, and policy development and implementation. The SAA should also conduct strategic planning, training, and information sharing to assure that the SAA functions as a primary source for best practices and promising approaches for the criminal justice system in their state.

Leveraging public funds to meet ongoing, new, or emerging state and community needs and in response to the economic and social climate is a primary function of the SAA. As the main clearinghouse of criminal justice information, the SAA should be the communicator of criminal justice issues to the legislators, policy makers, and to members of Congress and serve as a leader in the development of effective criminal justice policy and responsible stewards of public funds.

Recognized tribal nations are sovereign entities with jurisdictional authority that predate the United States Constitution and have the inherent right of self-governance.

It is essential to maintain strong tribal justice systems and equally essential to develop, promote and strengthen effective working relationships between tribal and non-tribal justice agencies to achieve optimal public safety outcomes for all. Each tribal nation is a unique and separate government and caution should be exercised in generalizing tribal justice issues.

Tribal justice systems are in varying stages of development with wide diversity among nations.

There is a strong common interest in building and maintaining effective tribal justice systems, so federal funding should be provided directly to tribal justice systems and directly to states that further or enhance tribal justice through cooperative agreements or that directly administer justice systems on Indian reservations. Finally, direct federal funding should be made available to augment efforts of tribes and states as they address the disproportionate number of Indian people present in non-Indian justice systems.

Government and non-governmental organizations should coordinate with each other and within communities to assure that comprehensive services are available to respond to the needs of crime victims, and to ensure that crime victims are treated with fairness, respect and dignity — free from intimidation and further harm throughout the justice process. Justice practitioners must be prepared to address the needs of all victims, including victims with disabilities, underserved populations, non-English speaking victims, the elderly and those with other special needs.

Services should also be available to victims of crime regardless of whether they have committed a crime in the past; or decline to participate in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for their victimization. Resources must be assured to establish and maintain services and compensation, and to assist all crime victims in overcoming the economic, physical and emotional consequences. Skip to main content Press Enter. Member Login.

Section 2.3: The Policymaking role of the Supreme Court

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County Elected Officials Guide to Criminal Justice System Decision Making

Skip main navigation Press Enter. Toggle navigation. Policy Statements. Policy Statements The NCJA advocates for effective criminal justice policy and funding for justice assistance programs.