Discretion in the Criminal Justice System

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Discretion in the Criminal Justice System

By | March 2013
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Making executive decisions in the criminal justice system is the underlying power of legal authority. Police, correctional officers, judges and so on hold the ability to make discretionary decisions based on the situation they are involved in. There are a variety of ways that authority use discretion but it may be different when involving different situations or even different people, i.e., juveniles or adults. I strongly believe that the discretion used in today’s society is distributed in an appropriate manner. Shifting the amount of discretion within our justice system could be for better or worse, but why fix something that's not broken?

Although most police officers use discretion, "Many police officers (and whole departments) prefer to focus on the justice aspects of police work: getting offenders off the streets, responding to emergencies, scoring big drug busts, and generally 'catching the bad guys.'" (Fuller, J.R. Pg. 6.) No matter how much discretion you give an officer, it's ultimately their choice to use it. Although it is common throughout the criminal justice system, some authoritative figures don’t use discretion in a way to guide punishments; they stay in accordance with established guidelines. In my opinion, depending on the severity of the crime discretion should or should not be used. For example, discretion should be used for a first time offender for speeding but should not be used for a first time offender of rape.

"The police are typically the first contact that young victims and delinquents have with the juvenile justice system. As with adults, law enforcement serves as the gatekeeper to the justice system." (Fuller, J. R. Pg 17.) It is extremely important for a police officer to make the decision of introducing a juvenile to the justice system. The responsibility for authorities to use discretion is crucial for a juvenile's future. With adults, less discretion could be used because they have a greater sense of morals. In today's...