The recurring issue within the Criminal Law system in our courts and judges is lack of funding. As much awareness of this issue, and as much campaigning as people have done to get this issue resolved, there is still not enough financial backing to properly serve all the individuals involved. It can be easy to say that this is a legislation issue, or one left for the policy makers, but the impact that improper funding has on an entire society, especially at the individual level, makes this an issue worth taking care of.
Funding is of the utmost importance if one wants to get anything done right. In order for criminal law to be able to excel in a society that values freedom and liberty over all else, a proper system of funding needs to be implemented. Hundreds of millions of dollars are given to criminal justice at the base level, for cops and direct enforcers of the law, but when it comes to the defenders of the law, the funding falls short (West). This is in just about every state, and every state unfortunately cannot do anything about it, especially now with the downturned economy. People who have committed crimes stay in jail for more time than they sometimes have to just because they are waiting for a trial to start, and without adequate funding, this waiting time will just continue to be elongated until someone becomes available that could handle a certain case (Dolan). This in fact costs even more money to maintain a person incarcerated for longer than they have to when they could just as easily hire more people to go through these cases faster (Chung). This also leads to the next problem which is that of the cases that do get to the judges and courts. Once it reaches the level where it could finally be handled and taken care of, there are still hundreds of cases waiting to be heard, so even at the point where an individual is up to get a fair and equal hearing, the judges are so overwhelmed, the courts are so backed up, that many times, the attention that a case deserves is not given to a particular individual. This lack of attention to detail could actually result in an error that could elongate the jail time even more, and lead to more costs in the end (Ostrom and Hanso). By handling the funding adequately and correctly the first time, they will at the end avoid having so many costs to fix problems that could have been avoided with proper funding to begin with. Not properly dealing with this funding issue in the criminal law system will have dire effects on the entire criminal justice system, as they are intertwined in ways where one product affects the other.
Something as simple and as far removed as funding for the criminal law system can become a problem to society. One of two things can occur. If there is not adequate funding for the proper care of individuals who have broken the law, then a person who might have committed a minor crime might be jailed for longer than he or she has to because there is not enough people power to handle cases at an adequate speed. This ends up being more money in the long run for someone who should have been out of jail earlier, but instead is taking more money to provide their necessary resources there, such as housing, food, medical care, etc. On the other hand, if the courts and judges are so overwhelmed with the amount of cases that they have to handle, and just want the case to be over and done with, they might overlook something severe that could lead to a guilty person to go free just because not enough time was put into looking at all the necessary details of their case. This could pose a danger to society as someone dangerous could be let go just because not enough attention was paid to their particular case. This person does not have to pose an eminent danger to individuals, but could just be a contributor to a problem in the community such as drugs and violence, which could affect neighborhoods in negative ways. Even though this may be considered a criminal justice problem overall, it is at the criminal law level that all of this begins. With proper financial backing, and the adequate resources directed to getting more help at the courts and judges level, then more can be done to improve a society overall.
This issue of the lack of funding in the criminal law system has been thoroughly discussed by those directly involved in the justice system, as well as proponents of a change in the funding rules. A great example that proves my point exactly comes from the following article. Tony West (2009) talks about this growing problem with the lack of funding for the adequate parts of the criminal justice system. Because of the lack of a properly structured system, a great imbalance in the amount of funding that gets directed to certain departments leads to a much bigger money problem in the end. The direct police department gets a budget of $524 million dollars to handle the crimes directly on the streets, while the District Attorneys and those on the judge and courts level only get $32 million dollars to handle those 70,000 cases that get taken off from the street. That huge discrepancy leads to longer time in jail awaiting a hearing, and getting the whole situation resolved. Kathleen Chung (2011) also discusses this funding issue and provides a probable solution by having outsiders, such as stakeholders, directly fund this system and provide them with the necessary financial breathing room that they need in order to hire more people and get their caseloads moving faster. District attorneys get tired out and stretched out thinly because there are too many cases to handle, but not many people available to handle them. Again, funding is the problem here. Ostrom and Hanso (2000) investigated through a variety of research how the timeliness and the quality of criminal case processing affected the efficiency of the caseload, and they found a positive correlation. They concluded that the more time and quality service that was given to a case, the better outcome that case would have. By giving each case the time that it deserved a better conclusion could be drawn. Their point in the study was to move away from having cases be a system, and instead see each individual as their own problem that deserved individualized attention. This is only attainable through proper staffing and adequate funding. This funding issue is not just an issue for criminal law at the first stage, but the final stage after prosecution, could be used as an example for how much damage and how much money could be avoided if the funding issue is resolved at its source. This can be seen in the Maura Dolan (2010) article where the lack of funding has allowed for death row inmates to pile up in California. This has an overall affect on the rest of the systems as the money used to house and maintain these individuals takes away from the money that can be used for other necessary resources. But proper funding for the criminal law system to process cases adequately is not the only funding issue in criminal justice. As William Glaberson (2010) reports, civil cases are also advocating for more funding to properly manage their case load. This article demonstrated how a fight for funding is necessary to make a difference, and just as legislators are proposing that money be funneled in their direction to have a better civil case processing network, the same could be done for the criminal law system, when it comes to their courts and judges.
There are many families who have had one of their own in a jail cell for longer than they should have been there because the whole system was too backed up for anything to be done at an adequate pace. Again, this all has to do with funding. This may seem like a political issue, or something that only affects at the corporate level, but the truth of the matter is that it affects the smaller people. To have someone who might have committed a piety crime, be away from their family for longer than they have to, ends up being an even bigger burden on the family. This is a system that affects everyone involved, not just at the legislative or higher political level. And this issue could be resolved in a matter of a couple of meetings.
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