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But an open system of prevention could be the alternative. It would subject the court or legislature to closer and public scrutiny (Robinson).
President Lyndon Johnson's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice was viewed as the single and most influential postwar American criminal justice policy (Coles and Kelling 1999). Its wisdom, contained the policy's main report, "The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society, published in 1967, swiftly transformed into conventional wisdom. It became the foundation for criminal justice policy in the 70s to the 90s. It recommended that the police firmly adhere to lawful procedures in handling offenders and the nation's criminal justice agencies, especially the police department, should improve their relations with minority communities. The Commission had important contributions, but its findings and conclusions were later challenged and even abandoned. It pointed to the police, prosecutors, jails, prisons, probation, parole, and the courts as comprising the criminal justice system, the function of which was to process cases. Only felonies like murder, rape, assault and robbery were considered serious and minor offenses, like public drunkenness and crimes without victims, were decriminalized. Only highly trained professionals could handle responses to crime. Citizens reported the crimes and acted as witnesses. And the prevention of crime, within this system, was to be performed through imprisonment and deterrence. The Commission also identified the root causes of crime as racism, poverty, and social injustice. It meant that the crime could become preventable if these root causes were effectively addressed through radical social change. Liberals shared that view. Conservatives claimed that the decline of the family structure and the erosion of traditional values should be reversed to eliminate or prevent crime (Coles and Kelling).
In the 70s, team policing as a community-based approach became popular (Coles and Kellling 1999). Foot patrols also became popular, as a result, and it was reported to have reduced fear. University of Wisconsin professor Herman Goldstein in 1979 suggested the adoption of an alternative philosophy of police being the problem-solvers rather than mere incident reactors. Prosecutors themselves got tired of the routine of imprisoning convicts and began to feel that they had to establish new roles. In the late 80s and early 90s, district attorneys and county prosecutors entered into more direct relationships with citizens in exploring these new roles in crime reduction and prevention. There evolved a new movement, called community prosecution, which caught the attention of prosecutors. Its goal of broadening their function from mere case processing or handling cases was not new. The American Bar Foundation in the 50s conducted a study on the routine, daily work of police, prosecutors, judges and corrections officers. It found that these officers managed intricate tasks by routinely using only their discretion in deciding the process and addressing the problems brought to them. There were expected errors in judgment, such as regarding minor offenses as serious felonies. Dropped charges could imply poor judgment in solving the problem, which should have been done outside the prosecution. The situation urged for an alternative to the traditional model of prosecutors as processors of felonies. These prosecutors saw what the police saw earlier that citizens wanted quality-of-life issues be taken seriously. The prosecutors began see the citizens' problems within a neighborhood or community context. They came to realize that citizens' problems required from them a broader scale of tactics than mere case processing (Coles and Kelling).
Community prosecution today is new concept, still evolving and defining itself (Coles and Kelling 1999). It has three common elements. Prosecutors are redefining their traditional mission to include crime prevention. They are moving away from the traditional reliance on criminal law and criminal prosecution and into developing a "problem-oriented" strategy. And they are collaborating more closely with other criminal justice agencies, the private sector and the citizens themselves in the community. Under the first, community prosecutors now view crime more broadly as including serious and violent crimes and low-level, quality-of-life offenses too. Along with this, prosecutors relate the public's fear to the crime itself. This means a greater emphasis on what citizens consider high-priority cases and offenders, whether street prostitutes, drug dealers or violent youth gangs. Under the second element, prosecutors will change and diversify their tactics. In addition to criminal prosecution, they will consider civil remedies for nuisances, for example; restraining orders for dangerous offenders, and working with local health and safety code enforcement. They are also hiring paralegal employees or non-lawyers who are better able to work on matters of public health, substance abuse treatment, social service, public relations, community organizing, marketing, journalism and crime prevention. Having become more creative in their tactics, community prosecutors can now set up community courts, drug diversion programs, substance-abuse clinics and children's advocacy centers. They can also secure funds and administer programs, which target or address crime and related issues of poverty, quality of life and housing developments. And under the third element, community prosecutors realize that they must work with citizens and others to jointly look out for priorities, approach crime within a community context, and encourage the same collaboration to ultimately reduce and prevent crime. Most of these prosecutors initiate the collaboration work, although their goal is for citizens to eventually assume responsibility for crime prevention and for prosecutors and police relegated in back-up position. These three elements are increasingly becoming visible in prosecutors' offices. Examples are the Safe Neighborhood Initiatives o SNIs in Boston, the Community Justice Task Force in Austin, a Children's Advocacy Center and Neighborhood Conference Committees set up District Attorney Ronald Earle; and the Justice Prosecution Program set up in August 1997 by County Prosecutor Claire McCaskill of Kansas. In each of these initiatives, prosecutors emphasize crime reduction, crime prevention, disturbing minor offenses and strengthening bonds with the rest of the citizens, other public agencies and community groups (Coles and Kelllng).
The growth of the community prosecution concept indicates that prosecutors, like the police before them, have been moving the boundaries of their functions by attempting to integrate case processing into crime prevention (Coles and Kelling 1999).Along with prosecutors, city attorneys, state attorneys-general and federal prosecutors have been adapting a problem-solving or community model in crime prevention and control. Probation and parole officers, courts and corrections personnel have also joined the stream. The involvement of district attorneys and country prosecutors is important to the development of this new crime-control concept and to the collaborative, community-based problem-solving initiatives for many reasons. Prosecutors wield
Power nd authority and enjoy an established and strategic position between the police and the courts, their contacts in the executive and legislative branches of government and the discretion they exercise. Their effects in cities where such projects or groups have been established reflect at least that their power can be as extensive as that of the police. The results of combined community policing and prosecution can be dramatic. The prosecutor is the most powerful locally elected justice official. He has the ability to convene the essential players in a case and secure resources from broth public and private sectors to be used in case or problem-solving (Coles and Kelling).
There has been increasing evidence that these community partnerships in crime prevention have been effective (Coles and Kelling 1999). Indications of their success are not limited to crime reduction. Businesses have also expressed willingness to resume or begin their reliable delivery services, clean and accessible parks, clean walls, the disappearance of prostitutes in the streets, controlled drug trafficking, and improved schools. Problems and questions concerning this new concept have, however, developed as well. With this shift to community prosecution, the prosecutor is empowered by taking him into the traditional realm of police. He now has direct contact with offenders and victims and with residents and other users in the community. His expanded tactics have increased his power over offenders through nuisance abatement suits, restraining orders, and other civil initiatives, which enable them to avoid the burden of proof and ignore constitutional protections applicable in criminal proceedings. Through their close work and coordination with police and citizens, the prosecutor can become over-zealous and forget his obligation to protect the rights of the accused and indicted. The prosecutor has no legal training in problem-solving or encouragement to become involved in community affairs. Nevertheless, community policing opens the police department to public scrutiny. Community prosecution exposes the actions of district attorneys for review by citizens themselves as well as by the local government and other collaborating and cooperating agencies. Community policing has also been beneficial to prosecutors. In the past, he had to render a decision not to proceed with a case if there was poor police investigation in order to maintain high conviction rates by prosecuting only airtight cases. But under the new concept, the community prosecutor reports to citizens and police on why he took or did not take a particular course of action on a given case o offender. There is public exposure. In addition, the guidelines, which regulate his work, can prevent abuses. Suggested guidelines…[continue]
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