The US and German Justice Systems
The criminal justice system in each country is important. This system punishes offenders of the laws that were put in place to restore and maintain order in society. The main aim of the criminal justice system is to provide a means through which victims can get justice for being wronged. Also, it has the responsibility of reforming the behaviors of criminals and providing rehabilitation so that the criminals do not repeat the offenses they committed in the past. The United States and Germany both have functional criminal justice systems. However, there are major differences in the way the systems function and the results that the systems have. For instance, the criminal justice system Germany is considered to be very efficient to the extent that Germany is used as a benchmark with which other countries compare their criminal justice systems (Pakes, 2014). On the other hand, the United States has a criminal justice system that needs to be reformed for better results. There are various ways in which the criminal justice system in the United States is both similar and different from the German criminal justice system. However, the results from America's system are wanting. There are several flaws which the country has in its criminal justice system. These flaws should be addressed. Looking at the various aspects of criminal justice will provide a good look into where the US is going wrong i.e. government, police, judiciary, law, corrections and juvenile justice. An analysis of these aspects of criminal justice will provide a good look into where the United States needs to improve so as to get to the high standards Germany has achieved. The United State's criminal justice system is flawed and should learn a few lessons from Germany.
In both countries, the government is responsible for the policies that affect the citizens. The judiciary in the United States tends to be partisan. Elections bring in new governments to power. With each new government, the judiciary has to change. New attorneys are appointed and given the mandate to carry on where their predecessors stopped. The case is very different in Germany. The judicial positions are life time positions that are not changed with the entry of a new government into power (Kobor, 2008). Therefore, the people with the responsibility of interpreting the law do not have to work in line with the wishes of the government. This factor greatly contributes to the fairness of the German criminal justice system.
The laws in Germany are complementary to each other while those in the US are not. German laws are made by large groups of individuals usually from the same party. Therefore, the laws introduced are done so after keen deliberation and afterthought into how they will affect the locals. Lawmakers in the United States get distinctions when their bills become law. Therefore, the whole house of Congress is full of individuals who seek to pass their agenda in the house. These individuals do not have law degrees or prior knowledge about the judicial systems (Stuntz, 2013). Therefore, the nation ends up with many laws that are not complementary leading to a messy law system.
The police force is at the forefront when it comes to the criminal justice system. The police are the first contact an individual has in the criminal justice system. The approach that the police take determines the experience that an individual will have in the system. Both police forces in these countries investigate cases and then take the case to the prosecutor, and the case later goes to court.Police officers in both countries will forward evidence to the courts to be used in cases as evidence.
The police force in the two countries share several differences in operation. First, the United States police use lie detector tests in some cases when they check statements made by suspects. Secondly, the US police use undercover techniques for a variety of cases. For example, the police use provocateurs who can pose as prostitutes and arrest those involved in the trade or as drug users to get to the people behind drug trafficking. These methods tend to be successful. Third, the police force in the US is responsible for hundreds of deaths yearly. The number is not fully known, but it is feared to be very high (Harry R. Dammer, 2013). The police force in the United States needs to focus more on protecting the people by reducing the number of deaths they cause yearly.
The German police operate differently. First, the German police force no longer uses lie detector tests. These tests are considered to be unreliable. In addition to this, the German police can work undercover only in cases that involve organized crime.The German police are not permitted to use deception to get a criminal to reveal evidence that might incriminate him or her. A notable strength of the German police is the low use of guns when dealing with suspects. When being trained, the German police are encouraged to refrain from using guns and killing civilians. The police force in Germany is more in touch with the victims than the US police force.
The judiciary is the branch of government that has the mandate of interpreting the law. The executive implements the law, and the legislature makes the laws. The judiciary is a very important aspect of the criminal justice system. When one breaks the law, the judiciary looks into the case and finds a way to get the issue resolved and give justice to the victims. The judiciary in the United States handles cases differently from the judiciary in Germany in several ways. First, in the US, only the defense can appeal an unfavorable ruling. However, in Germany, both parties can appeal a ruling. Allowing both parties to appeal a decision in court gives both a chance to seek justice when they feel that they have been denied their rights.
The United States judiciary gives the criminals the option of having a case determined by the jury. They cannot use the jury in appeal cases. The jury consists of citizens who exercise their duty to participate in the judicial process. Normally, a citizen is expected to serve on a jury at least once in his or her lifetime. The members of the jury are strangers who rarely know each other before the case. The main aim of having a jury there is to give a partial judgment to the case. The jury, after listening to the case, usually deliberates to determine whether the person in question is guilty or not. However, the do not have the power to sentence the individual (J. Scott Harr, 2014). The jury in the United States consists of people with little knowledge about criminal justice and, therefore, subject to bias and manipulation when in court. The approach the United States uses in its courts is the adversarial system. In the adversarial system, the two lawyers argue their case on the limited information which they want to reveal. The judge's main duty is to regulate the questions and ensure that the individuals give the information required by lawyers.
In Germany, the judiciary does not use the jury system of trials. The courts have lay judges assigned to the professional judges. Lay judges are similar to the jury members in the United States. However, the lay judges do not have a professional background in law, and they serve in numerous cases. These judges also have the same voting power as the judges appointed by the government to serve in the judiciary (Martin F. Kaplan, 2013). Cases that are minor and considered to be simple are presided over by one judge. The more complex cases can be heard by five individuals: three professional and two lay judges. This system of judging is more effective and has higher chances of providing justice. The judge with the professional know-how and the common citizen with the social knowledge both have a level playing field to determine the direction that the case will take (Thomas Weigend, 2014). With regards to the trial process, the Germans use a system that is inquisitory. This system works better since the facts are revealed, and the judge is given a chance to ask questions so as to interpret these facts better (Ebbe, 2013). The law is applied to the facts presented, and the rights are determined. This system of operation facilitates fair judgment. German judges are empowered to actively participate in the court cases they handle. In fact, the judges in Germany are responsible for the collection of evidence and facts that will be used in the case. During the cases, they ask the most questions.
Confessions are important in any criminal justice system. Confessions in the German court cases are encouraged. Once an individual confesses, the confession is taken as part of the evidence to be used to determine the case. The United States handles confessions differently. The individual who confesses has a high chance of getting a lighter sentence if he or she gives information on how to get other criminals. Once an individual confesses, the confession is taken as an admission of guilt, and the court case ends. The next step then becomes sentencing (Ram Subramanian, 2013). A major flaw with America's system is that there are cases where individuals are compelled to confess. Therefore, there are instances where an innocent person ends up in prison for making a confession under intense pressure. Also, the punishment should follow culpability rather than how much information an individual has because people with no information end up getting longer sentences.
A well empowered judiciary is a high performing judiciary. Judges in the US are not empowered as much as their German counterparts. They do not handle most of the information in the case, and they do not ask questions. They have been reduced to procedural referees in court moderating and regulating the battle between the two lawyers. Thus, the German criminal justice system has several advantages over the United States' criminal justice system. The cases heard in the German courts of law have higher chances of achieving justice than the United States. The judges are empowered to give their common sense in the case. German judges are exercise their full judicial powers creating a court case that is just.
Legal analysts worldwide agree that the German criminal system is fair and the laws facilitate just hearings. They also recognize several flaws within the US criminal justice system. The criminal code in Germany is written in a single book. Therefore, an individual who wants to learn about his or her rights can do so in a single sitting. The code in Germany is nationally applied. On the other hand, the US has volumes of code that would take a layperson a long time to understand. United States laws differ from state to state. On top of that, there are federal laws and the civil laws that people have to know (David W. Neubauer, 2015). Therefore, Germans have a better chance to understand their laws and what rights they have in court.
The United States supports prosecutorial discretion while Germany does not. Thus, people feel freer to report crimes when they happen. The German criminal justice system is against prosecutorial discretion. Thus, fewer crimes are reported. 2.5 auto theft and arson, 1.5 burglaries and two drug offenses are reported for every one reported in Germany. The statistics are worse for the serious crimes; 5 murders and forcible rapes and 3 or 4 robberies and felony assaults are reported for every 1 in Germany (Feeney, 1998). In this situation, the United States has the upper hand. More crimes reported means that more people could have justice served to them. Reported crimes are prosecutable. Unreported crimes and disputes are rarely resolved.
The correctional facilities in the United States and Germany are very different. The US criminal justice system has the mentality that harsher punishments are the best option. The harsher the punishment, the more people are discouraged from committing the offense. The Germans take an opposite view. The Germans argue that there is no need to lock away a person for life. The result of long sentences is prisons that fill up and get congested very fast. The United States contributes to five percent of the world's total population. However, the prison population in the US accounts for twenty-five percent of the global inmate population (Peter Wagner, 2016). In this country, we have a very large number of inmates. Many inmates make rehabilitation a very expensive and difficult process for the prison administrators. This situation begs for change.
The inmates in Germany are treated with dignity. They are provided with facilities and resources that they have access to when outside. For instance, the prisoners have video games, organized sports, and they live in very good facilities when compared to the United States. The inmates are allowed to have the keys to their cells. Thus, the inmates do not feel locked up as much as their US counterparts. They have many items that are considered to be dangerous in the US prisons. They also wear ordinary clothes instead of uniforms. These conditions are nurturing and facilitate the process of rehabilitation and correction.. The prison administration works to train inmates on how to handle difficult situations differently than they did. They encourage them to live without crime and without creating more victims. The aim of successful social integration in society drives the agenda in German correctional facilities.
Repeat offenders tend to go back to their criminal ways because of a lack of support. For instance, in the United States, prison life disrupts a lot of social norms for prison inmates. They lose their jobs and possessions, and these are hard to get back upon release. In Germany, the inmates are given a chance to leave the prison for work and even go elsewhere on weekends so long as they have a history of demonstration of good behavior while in prison (Harry R. Dammer, 2013). Thus, an inmate can start organizing his or her life when even before being released to society. Thus, inmates can get economic stability; a very important social safety net for inmates.
The juvenile justice system in the United States is very different from that in Germany. In the United States, children as young as sixteen and seventeen are tried as adults in court. When found guilty, these children are taken to adult prisons where they live out their sentence. The conditions in these prisons are tough, and these children are exposed to criminals who are far advanced than they are (J. Scott Harr, 2014). From a sociological point of view, this exposure to hardened criminals is damaging to the child. The child can pick up habits from the older criminals making his or her incarceration counterproductive; the main aim of imprisoning the child is to rehabilitate him or her. Worse yet, the child is exposed to an untold amount of abuse by the older inmates. The culture in the prison systems in the United States are not nurturing. Thus, rehabilitation becomes a difficult process.
The Germans argue that a child attaining the age of 18 does not necessarily make the child an adult by default. The child might have murdered an individual; however, this does not make the child an adult automatically by the age of 18. Therefore, the juvenile detention centers in Germany are home to individuals who are in their twenties. These individuals committed crimes when they were minors but are still finishing their sentence when they attain adulthood(Pakes, 2014). The juvenile centers in Germany allow them to stay longer until it is determined that they can be moved to the adult prisons and that they can cope. This move is important so as to allow a child so to can develop at the same pace he or she would when outside.
The juvenile justice centers in Germany are friendlier than those in the United States. When comparing the two, one will find that the environment in the juvenile centers in the United States is less nurturing than those in Germany. The children are allowed to have pictures of their loved ones on the walls. The children do not feel as though they are dangerous animals locked away from society. Instead, they are in an environment where they are rehabilitated and taught how to cope with life. This is the main mandate of correctional centers; to empower inmates with the right information for successful reintegration into society and for the avoidance of repetition of offenses (Kobor, 2008). In some juvenile centers in Germany, the children are allowed to mingle, and some even form relationships. They are expected to learn a trade if they opt out of education. The social reintegration is evident when one learns of how inmates are allowed to go apartment shopping before they leave prison. The German criminal justice system has the interests of the inmates at the core of its operations. Unlike in the United States where the ex-convicts find it hard to reintegrate into society, German inmates have more success and the criminal justice system posts very positive results. For the United States, 85% of the juveniles return to jail or court. In Germany, the rate is lower. 30% of the juveniles return to the prisons within a span of three years (Dunkel, 2016). Thus, the system is successful in training the children on how to live life differently once they leave the juvenile facilities.
The United State's criminal justice system is flawed and should learn a few lessons from Germany. In conclusion, the criminal justice systems in Germany and the United States are very different. The key difference is the approach taken by the various players in the criminal justice systems. The German system is successful, and the US system has flaws that need to be addressed. The US government should make laws that have the interests of the inmates at heart. These laws will help make the prosecution process fairer and encourage rehabilitation of the inmates. The judiciary should improve on how it deals with court cases. It is important that the people found guilty are explained to why they are where they are and what they should do differently. The correction facilities should look into how to make the inmates ready to integrate successfully into society upon release. Locking them up for long periods of time will not remedy the problems that the inmates face when they rejoin the society. Creating a nurturing environment and being more lenient with punishment will be more successful than what the US is currently doing with its inmates. The German system has worked well for its inmates. The United States should look to Germany for tips on how to improve its criminal system.
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