Court System Paper

Everyone has rights but some rights may be restricted or withheld once a person is convicted of a crime, the court in a bid to apply community-based corrections may opt on parole, home confinement, probation, and electronic monitoring of offenders among other methods of correction. These have been revolutionary methods that tend to change the rights of inmates and give them a chance to reform and change their ways (Neocleous, 2004).

Society has changed and the early methods of punishing criminals such as flogging, branding, public humiliation, corporal punishment and mutilation have been replaced by newer and more reforming methods. As the prisons were developed as early as 1800 they have evolved to be maximum, medium, and minimum security prison depending on the level of security (Walker, 1992). The development of methods such as parole, home confinement, probation, and electronic monitoring of offenders brought a whole new meaning to the reason criminals are arrested. The idea of reforming has initiated these new methods and the dual court system in the US has been seen to support this initiative.

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Probation is where the person sentenced serves under supervision by a probation officer in the community. Probation can be traced historically to the 14th century where the English courts came up with the “binding over for good behavior”. The courts trusted convicted persons to willing citizens; John Augustus (1784-1859) an American can be traced as being the first probation officer in the world (Schmalleger, 2009). He had lessons of criminal court and selected offenders to remain under his custody; firstly he dealt with drunkards but later on accepted other offenders. The Massachusetts legislature in 1878 enacted an act that saw Boston hiring probation officers that were salaried; this was later emulated by Missouri, Vermont, and Rhode Island in 1897, 1898, and 1899 respectively (Schmalleger, 2009).

This practice had become common and acceptable in the 19th C and as a result all the 48 states had adopted it by 1925. The federal government also allowed the judges from federal district courts to impose probation terms and also appoint salaried probation officers. Presently 20% to 60% of those found guilty in the US are under probation (Schmalleger, 2009).

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When inmates are released earlier from correctional confinement they are subject to supervision which is referred to as parole. The objective is to monitor offenders so that they can reform, and it all started in 1876 at the Elmira Reformatory in New York. Inmates were promised early release if they reformed and this seemed to work.

The Supreme Court has made several significant decisions that have laid a base for probation and parole in the US, these include; the Griffin vs. Wisconsin case of 1987. The probation officers were allowed to search the probationer’s homes without search warrants or probable cause. In 1998 another decision of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole vs. Scott there was declination of an extension for searches to those in parole. The US vs. Knights case in 2001 police officers were included under certain circumstances to be involved in the search for those on probation and parole. Knight a probationer had applied for the right to have search warrants during his home search; he however was implicated in an arson attack after police searched his house leading to a decision by the courts to affirming the searches (Schmalleger, 2009).

In 2006 the fourth amendment was found by the Supreme Court not to prohibit police from searching those on parole even without a warrant. The Samson vs. California was an example of such a case where the parolee was searched and found to be in possession of drugs. This led to a 1996 provision where all paroles had to sign consent to search without warrant after release.

The decision on Escoe vs. Zerbst in 1935 that has been modified time and again indicated that probation is as act of grace on the convict (Schmalleger, 2009). This was however changed in 1967 in the Mempa vs. Rhay case where the probationer was given the opportunity to a representation by a counsel before being convicted. The Morrissey v. Brewer and Gagnon vs. Scarpelli of 1973 and 1972 respectively also contributed to make probationers have procedural hearing; this was asserted in 1997 where Morrissey and Gagnon were but on parole after procedural hearing of their cases (Schmalleger, 2009).

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The use of evidence to deny parole was decided in the Greenholtz vs. Nebraska Penal case the court maintained that a convicts evidence of change and reform, while the Bearden v. Georgia case of 1983 established that revoking of probation should not be if the fine is not paid if the defendant was proved to be responsible. The Minnesota vs. Murphy case of 1984was key in establishing that the incriminating words of a probationer’s may be evidence in court if he/she does not in particular claim the self-incrimination right. The use of electronic monitoring of offenders was initiated in 1987 and these intensified in 1999 and by 2000 over 16000 persons were under this system.

Parole and probation has primarily four purposes i.e. presentence inquiry, other intake courses of action, diagnosis and assessment, and supervision. These functions have evolved over time with the change in law and in some cases individual reforming of the convicts play the bigger role in the consequences of these methods (Maguire, et al. 2002).

The state courts and the federal courts as have participated in the need for reforms on the inmates and the systems. They have ruled on cases where convicts have been put on probation, parole or even home confinement. The Supreme Court that has a national jurisdiction has been instrumental in the many cases involving parole and probation and this has contributed to the methods being applied nationally. The reforms of justice have included rights for the convicts and police; this has been brought about by society changes (Maguire, et al. 2002).

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