Research also showed that offenders tend to be part of or return to communities with high concentrations of offenders. The concentration of offenders in these neighborhoods affects the community negatively by increasing the stigma associated with the community and also saddling the community with additional problems without providing added resources needed for restoring or maintaining order. The ultimate consequence is the that the criminal justice system destabilizes informal networks of social control and increases poor attitudes towards formal social controls, both of which have been shown to contribute to increases in crime and disorder in the communities. Churning results in unnecessary pressure being put on the other residents of the communities who are law-abiding in disadvantaged communities. The removal of men from the community through incarceration has the chilling effect of changing the family's socio-economic structure. The families of incarcerated members, especially men, of the community also face stigma and negative identity from the community as well as drain in financial resources. Families are faced with the added burden of maintaining a certain level of contact with their loved ones who are in and out of prison. Financially, the family is forced to tap into limited monetary resources so as to maintain contact, either through phone calls, or visits to the prison which are usually far from them, and to provide psychological support. Former offenders have the burden of suffering from the stigma of their status as convicts which in turn limit their ability to take up a productive role in society. Communities also acquire a related stigma with residents becoming ashamed of areas in which they reside as a result of the bad reputation (Taxman, Byrne and Pattavina, 2005, p. 66).
The role of the police: profiling or public safety
Actions by the police departments determine how the citizens perceive the criminal justice system. The police have experimented with a number of initiatives to improve law enforcement in the community ranging from foot patrols to community policing in their bid to reduce drug-related and violent crime. Recent studies have documented a growing concern that certain segments of society perceive police actions to be biased specifically in the practice of racial profiling (Taxman, Byrne and Pattavina, 2005, p.68). A study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2001 found that 63% of whites surveyed expressed confidence in the police as opposed to only 31% of African-Americans. The same study found that African-Americans and Hispanics were found to be twice as likely that non-Hispanic whites to feel that traffic stops that were requested by law enforcement were unjustified and they were also twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be searched. Research done in this study found that individuals individual and community judgments about whether the police were profiling or whether their actions were legitimate depends on the way the police exercise their authority. Police misconduct tends to contribute to more deviance and disorder within communities (Taxman, Byrne and Pattavina, 2005, p.69).
Concerns of minority residents
There have been several issues which have come up as significant concerns across non-white racial and ethnic groups. These concerns include differential sentencing and acquiring quality legal services (Neeley, 2004, p. 27). There are also other group-specific concerns. Differential sentencing is a dominant theme which emerges from public hearings whereby minorities receive harsher sentences that non-whites. This belief is held for all decisions made in the legal process ranging from decision to prosecute, the setting of bail/bonds, the length of the sentence among others (Neeley, 2004, p. 27). For example, in Nebraska, a person interviewed for a study described how the second-degree murder statute is misused by saying that the law allows for an arbitrary choice between conviction for the crime of second-degree murder and manslaughter upon a certain...
The problem is seen when an arbitrary choice between convicting someone for second-degree murder or only for manslaughter. It is possible for authorities to choose to prosecute and convict minorities of second-degree murder and prosecute and convict non-minorities of manslaughter. When such a statement is made, there is suggestion that discretion is perceived as a discriminatory treatment. Several participants believed that differential treatment is also present when it comes to the setting of bail and/or bond. Some participants believed that judges tend to give minorities larger bonds as opposed to what they do to the whites. Juveniles of African-American or Hispanic or Latin descent are more apt to be sent to a correctional facility than any white youth.
When it comes to legal services which is the second dominant theme to emerge from public hearing testimony was dissatisfaction with legal services. The issues of concern included the availability of low-income services, the reliance on public defender services and dissatisfaction with the plea-bargaining system. In Nebraska for instance, testimony suggests that there are not sufficient resources to provide legal aid to low-income individuals. A representative of Nebraska Legal Services described the lack of available legal help for low-income groups (Neeley, 2004, p. 28). Costs appear to be a significant barrier to gaining access to legal representation. Many participants, for instance, hold the perception that quality legal services are directly affected by one's ability to pay. When one is arrested and charged in a criminal matter, many low-income minorities must rely on the services of public defenders. Several minorities of limited income relayed their specific dealings with court-appointed counsel. They believed that their court-appointed counsel did not work for their best interest or care about their case outcomes. There is an example given whereby a suspect was given a court appointed counsel who assured them that if they pleaded guilty to two to zero to five-year felonies and eight zero to one year misdemeanors that would receive no more than four to eight years due to the fact that they were not violent crimes. When the day for sentencing arrived, they received 20 months to five years on each felony and six months to a year on each misdemeanor, all to run consecutive to one another (Neeley, 2004, p. 28). The attorney representing this suspect did not seem surprised and packed up her briefcase and left without saying a word to them. Some other individuals fell trapped by the insistence of their lawyers to plea-bargain as opposed to devoting time to their case. There is a general belief that the court is concerned more with closing cases quickly as opposed to the administration of justice (Neeley, 2004, p. 28).
Group specific concerns
There are themes that are specific to certain racial and/or ethnic groups because it is possible for minority groups' different views of the court system are based upon group-specific experiences. The Latino/Latina has a major issue of interpreter services not being provided for them during public hearings. This led to the prevalence of misinterpretations due to the lack of interpreter services both prior to and following court appearances, how interpreter services are compromised by an insistence on moving cases quickly and a general lack of knowledge about courts and legal proceedings among new immigrants (Neeley, 2004, p. 29). In Nebraska, for instance, there are only 11 certified court interpreters in the entire state which makes it nearly impossible for courts to utilize certified court interpreters in all cases. There are cases where children were providing interpreter services. There are instances where clients have been told to bring friends, cousins or relatives who speak both languages to serve as an interpreter (Neeley, 2004, p. 29). The lack of interpreter services for certain languages combined with an increasing number of dialects being spoken in the state can lead to situations where more than one interpreter is needed. This makes the process time consuming and at times, the meaning can be lost in translation. There have been many incidents of incorrect translations being reported across multiple public-hearing sites. There are also several individual who believed that courts were simply not concerned with providing quality interpreter services. There was an instance of an individual who said that the presiding judge yelled at them in front of the court saying that she did not care whether the suspect understood what was going on and that they did not have time to waste. The judge further said that it was the suspect's problem if they did not understand and that they needed to move their cases in a hurry (Neeley, 2004, p. 29).
Native Americans who were interviewed for the research said that they were concerned about the cross-jurisdictional problems related to sovereign lands. Nebraska has tow territories considered sovereign in the northeastern part of the state (Neeley, 2004, p. 29). Citizens of these nations argued that often law enforcement officers as well as courts use jurisdictional differences as a reason to hold Native Americans for charges which are unworthy of bond. Jurisdictional issues have extended into the justice system which creates barriers…
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