The criminal justice funnel is a phrase used to describe the whole process through which the large number of unsolved, pending cases are reduced to a very small number through certain actions such as probation. The funnel has been used here symbolically to exemplify a large pool of cases at the top and small results as it is narrow at the bottom. It also describes the fact that the US justice system will always have more defendants and suspects than convicted felon who go through the available correctional facilities.
To better understand the system, we look at the nature of the system. It is organized in such a way that there are certain steps that have to be followed from the investigation phase, down to the release of an individual who has served time. However, in between all this, some cases go through dismissals. This can be attributed to various reasons such as lack of evidence. In some cases, the suspect will avoid the case by going through counseling and therapy thus the cases are dropped.
Another aspect of the system is discretion. The cases are investigated, taken to trial or even totally dismissed based on a persons decisions. The judicial officers use discretion to make the final decision. From the arresting phase, the police officer will decide whether to arrest are further investigate based on their own point of view. The same applies to lawyers and judges in cases such as deciding on a bail application.
A benefit of the system is that it ensures that the judiciary is not burdened by unsolved cases. The funnel also reduces the costs by reducing manpower and hours that would have been spent solving all the many cases. The backflow of unsolved cases can easily cripple the system in that it becomes in efficient and cannot be depended on.
A disadvantage of the system is that cases that are considered less serious are directed to probation. It is decided that the offenders can only go to jail if they commit other crimes or violate the probation rules. These are people who can be considered dangerous to society. At times even when the people involved are sure that the offender committed the crime, they are forced to watch as they are let free. This reduces their trust in the system. As wit many systems, there is a misconception that the system “lets off” criminals. The term lack of evidence has arisen in this debate as some feel that at times, criminals go free due to certain mistakes in the system.
The realistic assumption for the funnel would be that it can be looked at as an accurate interpretation of wrongdoing that is unaffected by social interactions and situations. All this can be attributed to the fact that the constitution requires that there be facts and evidence for a person to be deprived of their rights, property and/or privacy. I t requires that there be no reasonable doubt that the offender is guilty for them to face disciplinary measures. The bigger the deprivation, the more evidence and facts the system should present.
Out of 1000 serious cases, only 500 will be reported and of this only about 20 adults will be convicted as 10 youths are sent to juvenile correctional facilities. The remaining 470 will fall under unsolved (majority), dropped, acquitted, probation and those not found guilty after going through full trial. Looking at the above statistics, it is very clear that the funnel is clear representation of the US criminal justice system. A very small amount of reported crimes lead to incarceration. Thus, the number will reduce from top downwards exemplifying a funnel.
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