Before proposing a reform to the American criminal justice system, we must first examine the problems that plague the process of justice on all levels. American society plays an important role in shaping the criminal justice system. Their beliefs and values determine the type of deviants and the consequences of the crimes. Often their beliefs contradict each other.
Americans believe that the more serious a crime is, the longer a person should spend in a prison. In reality it means that a law at discretion can sometimes just set a number of years that a person should spend in the jail, regardless of the situation. The time in the prison is often very long (Randall, Brown, Miller& Fritzler, p.216) because some states have definite sentence or mandatory sentences which leave little room for the judge to decide on the merits of the person. For example, California favors “Three Strikes and You’re Out”(Randall & et al., p.216) stance on the laws which means after third felony crime, a person must spend 25-year-to-life sentence in the prison. They believe that the deprivations of basic needs, isolation from the society, and in extreme cases, death are consequences of committing a crime.
The process of the court in America values efficiency and tough punishments. Since there are a lot of arrests, the court is overburdened and pressed for time. The prisoners are processed through like animals for the slaughter, quickly and with no mercy. The inequality in the terms of power and money influences the court. People with deep pockets are able to bail out or negotiate for a lesser term than a person assigned to a free lawyer by the state. Those consequences Americans believe will serve as deterrence or warning to people to obey the laws.
The solution for the society’s peace and safety is to put the deviants out of the sight and out of the mind. Despite offering possible treatment or programs, Americans place the responsibility of the crime on the person and they believe it is up to the person to pull by their bootstraps back into the society with no or little help. The society shuns the ex-convicts because people after being exposed to media which put the convicts in a bad light, believe that all convicts are dangerous, crazy, and liable to bite back.
In the sharp contrast, the European system of treating the deviants is vastly different in the beliefs and methods. In Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, (Doleschal, 1977) they believe that the treatment is better than the prison or death. For example, the Netherlands has “ 18 persons per 100,000 population, 1/12 of the U.S. rate of 215 per 100,000”(Doleschal, p.52) which is amazing if it did happen in America. The reason for abolishing prisons’ conditions is that the environment of the isolation and deprivation did harm than good to the prisoners and created the cycles of violence. In Denmark and Sweden, Doleschal illustrated the humane conditions that Europe preferred in the prisons,