Sunday, April 1, 2012

Specialty Court

In our society, the elected officials implement new laws and tough on crime acts in order to prove to the general public that they are worthy of getting re-elected time and time again. What the public doesn’t understand is that this is causing an overwhelming problem. A gigantic problem in our society is that our prisons are steadily becoming more and more overcrowded. We are spending millions of our states money to keep all these offenders behind bars. The sad reality is that we could be using a lot of that money for better things, like education.

In my personal opinion, it is not the wisest thing to do to send every one of these people to prison. Some, not all, of these prisoners have families and respectable jobs in the outside world, and they actually can be positive contributors in society. This is why I like the idea of specialty courts. A specialty courts are lower courts that have jurisdiction over one specific area of criminal activity, such as illegal drugs, illegal weapons, or domestic violence. These courts try and find a plan to fit each case to keep the offenders out of jail. This may include a variety of community service, fees, therapy, counseling, and probation services.

My favorite example of one of these courts is the Juvenile Gun Court found in Birmingham, Alabama. This court was set up in Jefferson County because at the time there were a remarkably high number of juvenile deaths, most of them being gun murders. The law makers in Birmingham wanted some sort of prevention tactic to attack this problem, instead of simply handing out punishments as a way of deterrence.

Right out of the gate, the start of the Juvenile Gun Court prevented crimes in two ways. The first way was the prevention of the secondary offender, which targets “at-risk” groups. In this case, the at-risk group is juveniles with weapons. The second of these prevention methods was the new environmental design of Jefferson County. The court was making examples of misbehaving teenagers, so others in the same boat would second guess their own criminal actions, this lead to reduced crime. In the first two years of operation juvenile gun related crimes have gone down 10% and juvenile gun-related deaths have gone down nearly 50%.

Instead of incarceration for these juveniles, this court system adopted two major programs. The first is a parent education program, which is a 7-week course for the parents of the offender. This teaches them about the dangers of guns and the seriousness of one of their children obtaining one. The second is the idea of a 30-day boot camp. Defendants who plead guilty to non-murder gun crimes are sentenced to this High Intensive Training program at a boot camp in Alabama.

Since I am a very strong believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy, I like how the courts did everything in their power to keep these misguided teens from going to prison. If you treat them like prisoners, they will start acting like prisoners. It is also a good idea to keep troubled teens out of prison so they don’t become friendly with more dangerous peers and learn from them.
I would like to see these specialty courts become more prevalent in our society so we can help these troubled teens instead of pointing our fingers at them and saying that they are the bad guys. The treatment, under the courts supervision, will help them learn right from wrong, as well as keeping them from becoming life-long offenders. 

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