The Importance of Keeping Up with Criminal Law

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One thing that students of criminal justice must be prepared to face are the many serious and controversial political and legal aspects of their jobs.  Lawmakers are constantly passing, editing, and revising bills and legislation related to the sentencing and punishment of criminals, and that will have an effect on the day to day lives of anyone involved in the field of criminal justice.


Being involved in criminal justice as a career means understanding and keeping up with new laws, some of which you might feel very strongly about.  There are many considerations when making laws that deal with dangerous criminals, and so it is often very hard to please everyone, and there will undoubtedly be people who feel that new bills are either too harsh or too soft on crime.


New Bills for America and Great Britain


Recently, the British lawmaker Ken Clarke passed a bill that many British citizens are quite unhappy about.  This new bill changes suspended sentences for criminals from one year to two years, which will make it possible for thousands of criminals to receive shorter sentences.  Many citizens of Great Britain are afraid that this will spill over from small-scale offenders and allow even the dangerous criminals to serve less jail time for their offenses.


These changes are not limited to other countries, however.
This is a video comment on prison reform in Illinois:


At the moment, Ohio is considering a new bill that is proposed to save $78 million dollars each year and cut down on the overpopulation problem in local prisons.  The bill addresses many controversial areas of criminal law that are unsettling to many Ohio citizens.  For instance, the bill proposes releasing criminals over the age of 65, as they are viewed as less dangerous than younger criminals.  It would create more opportunities for people committing lighter offenses to pay their debt without being incarcerated, amongst other lighter sentences and punishments for committed crimes.


How These Changes Affect Criminal Justice Workers


These laws greatly influence – or even dictate – the way law enforcement is conducted.  For instance, the Ohio bill would require officers issuing a speeding ticket to have a radar gun, stopwatch, or other timing device to prove that the offending driver was, in fact, speeding.  The only time this would not be necessary would be during inclement weather, such as heavy rain or snow.


Another provision of that same bill would be to have shoplifters work out a community-service type deal with the store they’ve wronged, rather than face arrest or jail time.  This would mean that, were officers to even deal with shoplifting anymore, they would not be able to treat offenders as criminals, per se.  It is very important that law enforcement officials use the proper handling with each situation, and as laws change, the protocol for dealing with crimes and the people committing crimes will alter.


The Importance of Legal Awareness on the Job


Staying on top of these changes and requirements is not just wise – it’s essential to avoid losing your job or even facing harassment or negligence charges.  While it’s true that all citizens must deal with adjusting their behavior to suit new laws and legislation, those working in criminal justice must deal with these factors much more regularly, and often with higher consequences.


How do you feel about the bills being passed and proposed around the world, and how would you deal with working in an ever-changing climate where acceptable behaviors can quickly and drastically change with the passing of a new law?

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