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Rethinking the Criminal Justice System: Toward a New Paradigm

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1992
This paper describes the need for operational goals, objectives, and performance measures to replace or supplement the traditional criteria applied to the control of crime and the reduction of recidivism.

The paper summarizes the purposes of a new paradigm aimed at the enhancement of the general understanding of the workings of the justice system and at the forging of new concepts and categories of thinking. The new paradigm identifies the major purposes of the criminal justice system in terms of four civic ideals or purposes: doing justice, promoting secure communities, restoring crime victims, and promoting noncriminal options. Doing justice implies holding offenders accountable for their offenses, protecting offenders' constitutional and legal rights, treating like offenses alike, and taking into account relevant differences among offenders and offenses. The promotion of secure communities means low crime rates and the provision of the security necessary for communities to flourish. The restoring of victims means to honor the community's obligation to make victims of crime and disorder whole again. The promotion of noncriminal options means that punishment for criminal behavior should interfere as little as possible with the pursuit of noncriminal behavior. Even in prison offenders need at least some opportunity to engage in meaningful, constructive, and legitimate activities. by sketching the framework of American attitudes toward criminal justice and calling upon the American public to assume a more meaningful role in crime prevention and control, the author lays a foundation for more specific objectives and measures to come. A 9-item bibliography

Date Published: December 1, 1992