Saturday, February 25, 2012

McDonaldization, too efficient?

After discussing the McDonaldization effect in class this week the subject of efficiency was one that really made me think. Because a core principle of McDonaldization is efficiency and the criminal justice system being more of an assembly line these days, I started to question whether or not being efficient in criminal justice is a good thing or not. I think that being efficient in anything that you do can be a good and a bad thing, this includes the criminal justice system.

There is always going to be that desire amongst those who work within the confines of the criminal justice system to administer justice as much as possible, keeping evil off the street. There are ways to be efficient when administering justice in the community. The problem starts when our preoccupation with statistics and numbers outweighs our desire to be fair when applying the law. When organizations start to put a quota on the number of people we arrest, that starts to back up the court system, when the court system gets backed up they start to become more of an assembly line of justice. In their attempt to get everyone in and out with a verdict, people see the judge for seconds at a time. The judges mindset starts to shift to more of a routine instead of looking at each case as an individual case.

As we become more efficient, we can't help but sacrificing quality. What is ironic about the term "McDonaldization," is that the food you can buy at McDonalds is always prepared in an extremely efficient way, but is terrible quality. The fast food industry is a perfect example of sacrificing quality for efficieny. It is the same story in our current criminal justice system. The more we view arrests as a quota and as a requirement, the more people are going to be waiting to see a judge in our local jails.

What comes along with the question of quality, is the question of fairness. If the judge is in such a rush to get people in and out, the odds are (as I stated earlier) he isn't looking at each case from an individualistic perspective. Sometimes people are innocent in the court systems, they are arrested for the wrong reasons or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I can't help but notice the more and more convicted criminals that are being released all over the nation because they were wrongfully convicted in an assembly line type system.

This push on hard on crime and this "more people in the jails the better" mindset that we have, innocent people are actually being convinced to just plead guilty and get it over with. This is a direct consequence of having such overcrowding in our jails. The criminal court system is so backed up that pleading guilty and taking the punishment of crimes that you did not commit actually looks like the better option. I mean who wouldn't want to take a punishment and go home to their family when the other option is rotting in jails for a couple years waiting to get your time in front of a judge. It is really quite sad if you think about it, we might be recording higher arrest numbers but that doesn't necessarily mean we are administering justice fairly. The scale of justice is not always balanced, especially in the current age of McDonaldization.


  1. I hate the term Mcdonaldization. I really dont believe it has any meaning at all. I understand in class we learned about how such organizations are supposed to be efficient and equal among different locations but how does that apply to criminal justice. Every jurisdiction is different and I do not believe that prosecutors and defense attorneys treat people equally. I think they act on an individual basis to serve justice. Our system is set up so innocent people might go to jail and criminals may get off free. Examples such as O.J. come to mind since legal guilt is more important that factual guilt. Please respond maybe I misunderstand McDonaldization.

  2. I totally agree with this post this country is not as fair and just as our fore fathers set out for it to be. In a movie called Plea there was a guy who was going to court for murder he held his innocence throughout the entire process. The judge pulled the boy to the side and basically told him I dont care what you say, plea guilty and get 15 years, if you take this court to trial I promise I will give you life in prison. The suspect's lawyer told him just to go with the deal the judge gave him.
    The system doesnt care to hear what your version of the story is, unless you have big money to spend. It is sad that people can be convicted of a crime they didnt commit all because the courts dont want to spend too much time on any one case.

  3. Efficiency as it pertains to the CJ system can go one of two ways I think. You can be efficient by processing the biggest number of people through the system as possible as fast as possible, or you can be efficient by slowing the process down and just doing a better job. I think that today the CJ system goes with the first option just because of the sheer number of people being involved in it. I'm sure there is a constant struggle to fit the latter option in as well. As long the constant influx of offenders and the accused are coming in the door, I don't see how things will change. Whenever there is a bigger workload than intended, efficiency is paramount for that machine (a.k.a. the CJ system) to operate smoothly.