Criminal Justice System
The Criminal Justice system in the United States is tasked with the responsibility of maintaining the social order in the country. It has the power to investigate arrest, prosecute and jail individuals who are found guilty of committing crimes against humanity as well as crimes against the set rules for the nation. The criminal justice system forms the structure upon which the components work together to ensure that justice is served for both the criminals and the victims of the committed crimes. It is, however, important to note that in the United States Criminal Justice System, those who are charged with committing any crimes are assumed to be innocent until they are proven to be guilty beyond any reasonable doubt (White, 2003).
It is important to note that the Criminal Justice systems have a foundation for providing justice to the affected citizens of the United States of America for a long time; even in the colonial times in America, the Criminal justice system was still in operation although it was based more on the values that were emphasized by religious leaders and philosophers alike. The most important aspect of the US criminal Justice system was the separation of powers, there was a fair distribution of the power so as to ensure that the power to sanction a criminal did not lie squarely on any one person (White, 2003). The decision on whether or not an accused person would be found guilty lie in the hands of a jury comprised of persons who are duly appointed to overhear the trial and the testimonies of the witnesses by both the witnesses from the prosecution as well as the defense teams. This process therefore brings about the required checks and balances in the criminal justice system and ensures that the required justice is served and that a fir trial and verdict is passed for both the accused and the victims of the crimes.
In the present day, the developments in the United States Criminal justice system have ensured that the laws that are used to judge the offenders are well formulated and that they are well defined and cohesive to ensure equal treatment of all the accused persons. It also ensures that the law offenders and the victims of the crimes have more rights and privileges than in the past. The United States criminal justice system is comprised of five major components which are followed systematically one from each other to ensure that justice is served. If the first step fails, the next option is taken in order of hierarchy until at last the fifth step is reached.
The five components are as stipulated below (White, 2003):
- Local law enforcement- it is the responsibility of each and every citizen to observe the law and follow it. The citizens also have the responsibility to report those who are guilty of breaking the law t the police who have the responsibility of making the required arrests. Depending on the nature and magnitude of the crime that has been reported, the police can use on the spot fines or they can turn the arrested persons over to the court system to ensure that a fair trial is given.
- Court Trial- after the offender is handed over to the court system by the police, a court trial will follow; in this case there is the presentation of the evidence based on facts to the prosecutor who usually represent the state. The prosecutor scrutinizes the presented evidence and has the responsibility of deciding whether or not the presented evidence is sufficient and strong enough to warrant a court case. So the prosecutor can either dismiss the case or present it to the court for a court case.
- Court case- this involves at a judge who presides over the case to be presented in a court of law. For minor offences where the offender is found guilty and pleads to the charges, the judge in most of the cases will pass judgment and the case will be finished and closed, however if the offender claims not to be guilty, or if the magnitude of the case is very big, then the trial will follow the entire process.
- Trial with a Grand jury- in a court of law, the grand jury is given the responsibility of hearing out both sides (the prosecution and defense counsels) and determine the guilt of the accused party as well as to oversee the passing of the associated judgment. The jury is preferred as it is seen as having the ability to be fair and to pass fair judgment for the accused in the cases because the members of the jury are not involved in law and they have no affiliation to both the prosecution and the offender. The members of the jury are independently selected after careful scrutiny and are therefore not bound to be biased towards any system.
- Decision and Punishment- it is the responsibility of the jury after hearing the case to reach a unanimous decision on whether the accused person is guilty or not; after passing a ‘guilty’ verdict, the jury can either give the sentence or they can pass their decision to the judge who then gives a sentence to the offender.
There are several arms of the government as well as government agencies that are given the responsibility of enforcing criminal justice and ensuring that law and order are maintained in the country. These arms may specialize in various forms of crimes such as terrorism. The department of justice has been faced with the responsibility of fighting crimes in the United States and the Homeland security is one of the agencies that has the responsibility of maintaining law and order and can be considered as a form of the criminal justice system (Shapiro, 2007).
One of the responsibilities that have faced the criminal justice system in the recent years has been the responsibility of fighting terrorism, it is common knowledge that terrorism has spread widely the world over. The terrorist network if growing at an alarming rate and the threat of terrorism has never been more real and shocking than the present time. Terrorists are coming up with new and advanced methods of carrying out their terrorist activities and are targeting areas that were once thought of as being untouchable. The department of Homeland Security is one of the institutions that help the government in fighting the threat of terrorism in the United States; it helps in the gathering of intelligence information on the activities as well as the plans of the terrorists (Sauter & Carafano, 2005). This enables them to detect the possible targets of the terrorists and carryout prior measures to prevent these attacks as well as to carry out possible arrests and interrogation of the arrested terrorists.
The fight against terrorism is an initiative that cannot be carried out by any single nation, there is a need for all the nations in the world to work together and cooperate in the process of trying to counter the activities of the terrorists the world over. Terrorists are known to be patient and plan their terrorist activities for a long time before executing them and therefore the best way to fight terrorism is to use intelligence information to be able to discover the plans that the terrorists are making with regard to their terrorism activities. After the September 11, 2001 attacks that took place in the United States, the world came to the realization that terrorists were capable of doing anything to counter the countries that lead the war against terrorism (Mamdani, 2004).
After these attacks the United States government led by the then president George W. Bush embarked on a vigorous war against terrorism that involved an attack on all the nations that were perceived to be harboring terrorists or encouraging the spread of terrorist activities. This led to the formulation of the national strategy for fighting terrorism which was aimed at ensuring that justice was sought and achieved for all the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks. The attacks on the Afghanistan nation were aimed at infiltrating what was supposed to be the perceived base of operation of the terrorists and where they were perceived to plan and carry out their terrorism activities from (Dunn, 2003). The efforts of the United States government were supported by the United Nations as this was seen as being geared towards protecting the world and making it a safer place for all the people.
The September 9/11 attacks in the United States forced most of the countries in the world over to carry out a major review and overhaul to their criminal justice systems and adopt new measures and strategies for the fight against terrorism. These strategies needed to be integrated as soon as possible into the justice systems in these countries so as to achieve the desired results in the shortest time possible. The government of the United States carried out a major overhaul in their systems to support the war against terrorism and to carry out the attacks that were aimed as retaliation to those who had planned and carried out the attacks on the citizens of the United States on 9/11.
Some of the policy changes and strategies that were adopted by the government of the United States included the formation of the department of Homeland Security which was given the responsibility of protecting the citizens of the United States against both the national and domestic terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was formed as a result of the signing of the Homeland Security Act in November 2002. It s major function was to co-ordinate the efforts of the federal state in the war against terrorism. This department was comprised of around twenty-two existing agencies which were now put under the control of the DHS; the Homeland Security Act imposed very crucial regulations to the Immigration and National Service (INS); this body had the responsibility of controlling the flow of immigrants into the United States.
Some of the responsibilities of this body were transferred to the Customs Border Patrol (CBP), which was now given the responsibility of monitoring the movement of immigrants in and out of the United States as well as controlling the trade that took place at the borders of the United States so as to ensure that there was no proliferation of illegal arms and weapons that could be used by terrorists to carry out attacks against the United States (Alexander & Musch, 2005). It is important to note that all these agencies were now put together under the DHS and they were supposed to work in collaboration with each other so as to ensure that they achieved the set goal of mitigating the threat of terrorism and the terrorist activities in the United States.
The other departments that were put under the DHS and were supposed to work together in the fight against terrorism were the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), whose major aim was to aid in identifying and apprehending the persons who were illegally residing in the United States. The ICE formulates and reviews the country’s immigration and custom laws. The department also has the responsibility of deporting those who are found to be illegally working in the United States and those who do not have the permits to work in the US are also identified (White, 2003).
The United States secret service also had the responsibility of helping in the fight against terrorism by ensuring the security of the major political figures. The greatest responsibility of the secret service is to carry out investigations and threats against the current president as well as those who are running for the office of the presidency. This was a major factor in the fight against terrorism as the terrorists were thought of as ultimately targeting the president of the United States of America. The Department of Justice has the responsibility of ensuring the enforcement of the federal law in the United States. It carries out the function of enforcing the criminal law as well as controlling and prevention of criminal activities in the country.
To successfully carry out these activities, the department of justice works in collaboration with various agencies in the process of enforcing the law; these agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration as well as the U.S. Marshal Service. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has gained a worldwide acceptance and its role is widely recognized as it plays a key role to aid investigation even in the other nations that do not have the capacity to aid in the investigation of criminal activities especially those related to the threat of terrorism (Shapiro, 2007). The FBI is always ready and willing to work in collaboration with the nations in the affected countries so as to ensure that the investigations are carried out thoroughly and the culprits are apprehended.
Current U.S. Strategy for fighting Terrorism
The National Strategy for fighting terrorism and the National Security Strategy contain documentation that shows the strategy to be adopted by the United States to fight terrorism. The top priority of this strategy is to combat terrorist activities and secure the American homeland from any future terrorist attacks. These goals would be accomplished using all the means that were possible and available in the diplomatic, economic terms and law enforcement. The information, intelligence and the military were also to be actively involved in the national strategy for combating terrorism. The other important aspect that was outlined was the fact that although the U.S. would seek the help of the international community in the fight against terrorism, it would have no hesitation in acting alone in its capacity to defend its territory and its citizens (Shapiro, 2007).
The strategy and goals for defeating terrorists in the United States can be simplified using a 4D approach which can be broken down as defeat, deny, diminish and defend. Defeat would entail the destruction of the sanctuaries of the terrorists as well as breaking down the communication channels of the terrorists and their leaders. The countries and organizations that are deemed to support or fund the terrorists’ activities would also be destroyed. The US would also strive to deny the terrorists any support and refuge; this would entail offering any support to the weak nations and states in their efforts to fight terrorism.
The war against terrorism would also be achieved by preventing the spread of the extremist ides related to terrorism. The U.S. also laid down strategies to defend its citizens both abroad and within the homeland; this would entail efforts to prevent any terrorist attacks within the United States as well as fighting and prevention of any acts of terrorism that are aimed the U.S. before they get to the homeland.
The Criminal justice system has the fundamental role of protecting the citizens of the country against any criminal activities as well as ensuring that the offenders are apprehended and convicted of the crimes they commit. The acts of terrorism have for a long time been a course of concern for many nations all over the world especially with regard to protecting their citizens. There is therefore a need for integrated efforts to be put in to ensure that all the concerned parties cooperate with the United States and the international community alike in the fight against terrorism to protect their citizens and ensure that the world is free of the terrorist activities. The ultimate aim should be to have criminal justice systems that are well equipped to deal even with the threat of terrorism and ensure that the offenders can be apprehended and given the punishments that are due to them.