Criminal justice reform: an exploration

 

The Adequacy of the Criminal Justice System

One of the more interesting aspects of studying political science is examining public policies to learn how and whether they work to achieve the goals that gave rise to them. Public interests are not well-served if public policies fail to respond adequately.

Relevant to the study of Texas government and politics are policies that address crime and punishment given that a sizable chunk of the state’s budget is allocated in this policy area. With an annual budget in excess of $3 billion, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice oversees a vast network of correctional facilities and expenses. Chapter 12 of the textbook describes criminal justice in Texas, and this information will help you understand the importance of this policy area.

Criminal justice reform has been a hot topic nationally and in Texas for several years, as you are learning. Disparities in sentencing, and overcrowded and violent jails and prisons prompted reforms here in Texas in the early 2000s. Recently, however, bail procedures, death penalty laws, and drug policies have placed criminal justice reform back on Texas’s policy agenda. For more information about the backdrop of criminal justice reform generally, please review:

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/criminal-justice-reform-state-level (Links to an external site.)

Among the topics covered in the Brennan Center report, you learn that prosecutors enjoy considerable discretion over criminal cases. What do you know about the role of prosecutors? What assumptions do you have about them? 

Watch this TED Talk presented by prosecutor, Adam Foss. Jot down a few notes and consider the importance of the prosecutor in the criminal justice system.

Adam Foss: A prosecutor’s vision for a better justice system

http://www.ted.com/talks/adam_foss_a_prosecutor_s_vision_for_a_better_justice_system  (Links to an external site.)

After listening to this TED Talk and considering the Brennan Center and textbook information, you will prepare an essay in which you:

  • Describe the general theme of criminal justice reform, as explained in your textbook, the Brennan Center, and Adam Foss’s TED Talk. Why do you think criminal justice reform continues to be part of the public policy agenda in Texas? (Worth up to 25 points)
  • Identify and describe three distinct significant points about criminal justice reform that resonate with you. Why do you find them important? (Worth up to 25 points)
  • Discuss how you believe elected officials in Texas can address each point of significance you identified. (Worth up to 25 points)
  • What role, if any, can you play in criminal justice reform, say as in the selection of prosecutors in your community? (Worth up to 25 points)

Requirements: This assignment is worth up to 100 points (25 points per section). Make sure you address the prompts in each section with sufficient information to earn maximum points.

The minimum word count is 550 (that’s two pages, double-spaced, and 12-point font). Your response must be written in academic English. You will use your voice and write in your own words, but if you do quote or paraphrase from any of your sources, provide a citation.

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