Formal and Informal Justice

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Jennifer Hemmingsen
Assignment 1.4

The formal justice process includes a series of steps from the initial contact to post release. These formal justice cases receive a full measure of rights and procedures. The formal justice process contains 15 stages, each of which is a decision point through which cases flow. The 15 steps are the following. 1) Initial contact

2) Investigation
3) Arrest
4) Custody
5) Charging
6) Preliminary Hearing/Grand Jury
7) Arraignment
8) Bail/Detention
9) Plea Bargaining
10) Trial/Adjudication
11) Sentencing/Disposition
12) Appeal/ Post Conviction Remedies
13) Correctional Treatment
14) Release
15) Post Release
Justice expert Herbert Packer described the formal criminal justice process as an “assembly line conveyor belt” which moves an endless stream of cases.

Criminal acts that are very serious may receive the full process that the criminal justice system has to offer, from arrest to trial. However, less serious cases are often settled long before the formal process has run full course, this is known as informal justice. Informal justice can also be described as the cooperation between the offender and the law. This cooperation can take place pre or post conviction. For example, police may be willing to make a deal with a suspect to gain cooperation or a prosecutor may bargain with a defense attorney to get a plea of guilty as charged for a promise of leniency. I see informal justice as a compromise to benefit both parties.

I feel that informal justice is an important tool in the criminal justice system. Sometimes you have to work with petty criminals to take down more violent offenders and in other cases, accept plea bargains in order to ensure that the accused receives punishment. In other instance plea bargains are very important so that victims are not re-victimized throughout the trial process. It’s important to get some cases in and out of...
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