The process of communication involves the exchange of both verbal and non-verbal messages, which is in the form of information. This exchange is normally continuous, and the message is the most significant component of communication. The message is passed through a media from the sender to a recipient, and it is critical that it is not distorted in any form. The communication is normally a two way traffic as a feed back is normally expected within a specified period, and should be in the same format that it was sent. In criminal justice system, the strength of communication is vital as it helps to get the best information during interviews between police officers and suspects. There are different styles of communication with different strengths and weaknesses in both verbal and non-verbal communication. Communication helps in improving law enforcement between enforces and the public; furthermore, it is critical in promoting enforcers chances of getting the truth of a matter. The process of communication starts immediately with the arrest of a suspect. Each of the following officers in the justice system has a responsibility to play in the process of communication, the arresting officer, prosecutors, defendants, and judges. Miscommunication can occur during the process of communication; this can be due to language or cultural difference. Thus, nonverbal communication tools, comes in handy in such situations like the use of gestures and body language.
The components of communication can include context, sender or encoder, message, media, recipient decoder, and feedback. The context can be physical, social, or cultural, and these components normally affect communication. The sender or encoder is the person who does send the message; he can use the verbal or non-verbal symbols for easier interpretation by the recipient. The message is the idea that is sent by the sender for communication, and it is what elicits a response from the recipient. It is where communication starts from, as the sender decides on what message is to be sent. The medium of communication is the means by which the message is conveyed, exchanged, or transmitted. The choice of the medium is the key in communication for it to be interpreted correctly by the recipient. The recipient or decoder, is the person who gets the message from the sender, he is the one targeted or aimed at when sending the message. He does interpret the message according to the way it was received from the sender, and the medium that was used. When it comes to feedback, which is the most essential component of communication, this is what permits the sender to analyze the effectiveness of the massage. It does give the sender the option of knowing if the message sent was correctly interpreted by the recipient. It can be verbal or non-verbal, and can be in written form such as reports, and memos among many others. The component of communication can also involve verbal, nonverbal, and paraverbal. Verbal component, involves the content of the message, the choice, and arrangement of words. The non-verbal component involves the message sent through body language. The paraverbal component does involve the tone, volume, and the pacing of the voice. All the components are jointly used for effective communication in sending clear and concise message, and to hear and understand correctly the message that is sent.
In criminal justice system, there are styles of communication that include passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, assertive, and non-verbal. Passive communication is where one speaks in weak or soft voice, and does not express thought or feelings directly. One who uses this communication is normally non-confrontational and is well liked, but one is easily manipulated and exploited by others. In aggressive communication, one tends to overpower and intimidate others as he expresses his thoughts and feelings in a harsh tone. Most police officers, to get information from suspects, use this communication. In passive-aggressive communication, the understanding of one is not known since the communicator tends to deny his/ her feelings by avoiding taking risks. Criminals tend to use this style of communication. Assertive communication strikes a balance between aggressively pursuing understanding and truth while at the same time expecting others to do the same (Markovitz, 2009). The communication gives a level of trust between the police officer and a criminal. Non-verbal communication involves the use of body language to communicate. In criminal justice, this communication is emphasized, as during interrogation, the way a suspect behaves can show his truthfulness.
The difference between listening and hearing in communication is that listening is the process of giving meaning to the verbal communication; that is, paying attention to the words spoken with the intent of comprehending their meaning. On the other hand, hearing is to perceive by the ear, this means that it is a physiological element of listening; in other words, listening with attention. Normally it is in one’s ability to hear but not listen. Skills are needed for effective listening. Hearing is the physical ability, which occurs when sound waves transmitted and stroke the ears at a certain frequency and loudness, and is processed into audible information, while listening, is the active participation in the communication process, which involves receiving, attending, understanding, responding, and remembering what was said. Hearing can occur with or without a permission or consent, and at the same time, you can hear one speak without listening to the words. There are passive and active listeners, and a good listener requires an open mind, having direct eye contact, and refrains from judgment. Good listeners become good communicators hence leads to effective communication.
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The formal and non-formal channels of communication in criminal justice organizations can be described according to the channels of communication within a system. Most criminal systems involve the police, courts, and corrections. Formal channels are the procedures set out by the policies within those organizations; these are normally strict procedures. The informal channels can include the undocumented information, which can be shared. The channels have both effective and ineffective way of sending and receiving information. In the chain of command of the criminal justice field, this is where formal channels of communication are used; this chain directs the formal channels upward, downwards, and horizontally through the levels of command. The procedures to be followed in communication are established within the police force hierarchy, and show the authority the subordinate is to report to, as the directors are the ones who dictate the means of communication. The hierarchy through written measures, rules, and policies sets the structures and the atmosphere. In downward formal communication, senior police officers are the ones who send information to a junior person until it reaches the lowest applicable officer. In upward formal communication, the senior police officers are provided with feedback from the junior officers. In horizontal formal communication, communication happens within the same level of command; that is, it is the communication, which takes place between officers within the same rank. In informal channels of communication, officers at any level of command can share the received or overheard information with other officers; thus, there is a high chance of information distortion.
Different barriers to effective communication can occur at different levels or components of communication; that is, at the encoding, transmitting, medium, responding, and decoding areas. This can occur due to difference in culture, language, organization, individual, interpersonal, attitude, and channel barriers. The barriers can be expressed through the choice of words or language one uses, body language, selective hearing, stress, physical, and emotions. These barriers are applicable in the criminal justice too. However, the effects of the barriers of communication are augmented in the criminal justice system. This arises due to the strict hierarchy of command, which instills some fear of senior officers by the junior officers and the intimidation and fear that is likely to be meted on a criminal by a law enforcement officer. Furthermore, the inappropriate environment such as a courtroom, interrogation room, place of arrest, may be unfamiliar and inappropriate to undertake effective communication between the criminal and the criminal justice officers.
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However, there are strategies that may be put into practice to surmount communication barriers. They include criminal justice system officers taking a personal responsibility to changing their thought and feelings towards their colleagues. This breaks down the communication barrier and builds relationships; hence, effective communication. Other measures include asking for clarity, being specific, choosing the means of communication effectively, being patient, speaking slowly and carefully, avoiding the use of idioms and jargons, and providing information via several channels, this can only be achieved if fear and intimidation across different hierarchies in the criminal justice system are eliminated.
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