The several television programs under the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) brand are crime dramas depicting how sophisticated forensic tools are used to solve cases. Because such tools are based on science, they are only as good as the science on which they rest. How good is the science? As the references listed below make plain, much of the forensics depicted in television programs is at best fanciful, and real-life forensics are too often not much better.
There have been claims for decades that in the United States the death penalty serves as a deterrent. When there are executions, violent crime decreases. But there have also been claims that executions “brutalize” society because government agencies diminish respect for life when the death penalty is applied. With brutalization comes an increase in violent crime, and especially homicides. Both sides assert that there is credible research supporting their position.
Recent empirical research has shown that juveniles do not achieve complete psychosocial maturity until post-adolescence and that trying juveniles as adults can be associated with elevated rates of criminal recidivism (Steinberg & Cauffman, 1996). In response to these as well as other concerns, several states including Illinois, Conneticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and New Hampshire, have recently raised their legal ages of majority in the hopes of reducing juvenile offending rates.
In the past few years, the topic of police reform, and the role of legal interventions by the courts has been discussed by politicians and covered extensively in the media. One of the more intrusive forms of court interventions is the use of a consent decree – a settlement agreement filed in federal court between plaintiffs and the local government agency in charge of the police. Typically consent decrees are overseen by a judge, who can legally enforce provisions in the agreement.
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