Sunday, December 20, 2009

Crime Response: Swift, Balanced, & Just

One of our guiding criminal justice principles is: "2) The response to crime should be swift, balanced, and just"; and as this story from the Philadelphia Inquirer reveals, justice that is less, causes many problems.

An excerpt.

“…The two men's violent path from the streets into the courts and back again vividly illustrates the failure of Philadelphia's criminal justice system.

“It is a system that all too often fails to punish violent criminals, fails to protect witnesses, fails to catch thousands of fugitives, fails to decide cases on their merits - fails to provide justice.

“In America's most violent big city, people accused of serious crimes are escaping conviction with stunning regularity, an Inquirer investigation has found.

“Philadelphia defendants walk free on all charges in nearly two-thirds of violent-crime cases. Among large urban counties, Philadelphia has the nation's lowest felony-conviction rate.

“Only one in 10 people charged with gun assaults is convicted of that charge, the newspaper found.

“Only two in 10 accused armed robbers are found guilty of armed robbery.

“Only one in four accused rapists is found guilty of rape.

“The data also show that people charged with assaults with a gun escape conviction more often than those who use fists or knives. Of people arrested for possession of illegal handguns, almost half go free.

“Nationally, prosecutors in big cities win felony convictions in half of violent-crime cases, according to federal studies. In Philadelphia, prosecutors win only 20 percent.

“In a comprehensive analysis of the Philadelphia criminal courts, The Inquirer traced the outcomes of 31,000 criminal court cases filed in 2006, 2007, and 2008, tracking their dispositions through early this year. The results go a long way toward explaining the violence on city streets.

“For three consecutive years, Philadelphia has had the highest violent-crime rate among the nation's 10 largest cities, FBI figures show. It has the highest rate for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.”