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Critical Issues in the American Criminal Justice System - Sentencing Decisions and the Death Penalty

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Critical Issues in the American Criminal Justice System:
Sentencing Decisions and the Death Penalty

Richard W Ramsay

Dr. Allen Lowery
CJ 6624 – Court Administration
December 1, 2010

Abstract

This paper discusses three critical issues in the criminal justice system. It touches on the general issues of punishment philosophies, sentence decision making, and prison overcrowding and focused more specifically on the negative effects of each. Highlighted in this informational paper is the interrelated nature of the issues; each issue affects and is affected by the others. Data and information has been gathered from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Amnesty International, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and other scholarly works. Amongst the information given here are the detrimental effects of under-funding in the correctional system, the link between overcrowding and recidivism, the relationship between overcrowding and inmate violence, the ancient and moral foundation of many punishment philosophies, and the shocking number of crimes committed each year. Be forewarned that this paper focuses on the negative aspects and offers nothing in the way of a solution to these critical issues.

Crime is an issue that every country must deal with on a daily basis and here in the United States of America that is especially true. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the U.S. had more than 11 million crimes committed in 2008 (Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], U.S. Department of Justice - Table 1, 2009); this is a far greater number of crimes than that of any other country in the world. When looking at prison statistics, the U.S. also ranks highest in both total prison population and prisoners per capita. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that over 2.3 million people were being held in custody in state or federal prisons or local jails (Bureau of Justice Statistics [BJS], U.S. Department of Justice, Office of...