Criminal Justice Systems in America, Japan and Cuba

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Criminal justice systems in America, Japan and Cuba

Introduction

Most Americans do not believe our justice system is fair. If America’s justice system is not fair then what can be said about the justice systems of Japan and Cuba. Many Americans criticize their government and government institutions. This is especially the case with the criminal justice system. Although the justice system comprises of law enforcement, courts and corrections, many people are only aware of the law enforcement section. This is because of the high number of police officers available in the country. It is clear that the criminal justice system needs to be improved in some of the areas. After a closer examination in the criminal justice systems in Cuba and Japan, it is clear that the American system is ahead in some of the areas. This is especially the case with the courts, which depends on the provisions made in the constitution. America can learn a few lessons from Japan and Cuba, and it has a lot to offer the two countries.

Country Description

Cuba is an island on the Caribbean located between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest country on the Caribbean with an area of 110 860 sq km. Cuba has a population of 11.2 million. Census taken in 2002 indicates that the whites are the majority and they make up 65% of the population. The other ethnic minorities are mixed race, who make up 25% of the population and blacks, who make up 10% of the population. Spanish is the main language spoken in the country. The main religious group in the country is the Roman Catholics, who make up more than eighty percent of the population. Other religions present in the country include the Jews, Protestants and the Muslims. Cuba is a totalitarian communist state with 15 provinces and 1 special municipality. Only the communist party is allowed in the country. Although it gained independence from Spain in 1898, it was administered by the US until 1902. Cuba therefore recognizes 1902 as their year of independence. The country got its constitution in 1976 and it has amended it twice since then. It uses the civil law system that is primarily based on the Spanish civil code (U.S. Department of State, 2011).

Japan is located in eastern Asia between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. It has an area of 377, 835 sq km with no land boundaries. The country has a population of more than 127 million people. The Japanese make up 98.5% of the population. Other minority groups such as Koreans and the Chinese are also present. The dominant language in the country is Japanese. The dominant religion in the country is Shinto, which is practiced by more than eighty percent of the population. Other religious groups present in the country include the Buddhists and the Christians. Japan has a parliamentary government with a constitutional monarchy. It uses the civil law system that is based on the German model, although it is also influenced by the Anglo-American system and the Japanese traditions. The government branches include the executive, legislative and the judiciary. The executive is headed by the prime minister, who also acts as the head of government. The legislature comprises of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors (U.S. Department of State, 2011).

The US has an area of 9 826 675 sq km with an estimated population of 313,232,044. It has many ethnic groups with the white making up more than seventy percent of the population. Other ethnicities present in the country include Asian, blacks, Hispanic, Alaska natives, native Hawaiians, pacific islanders and Amerindians. English is the main language used for communicating although other languages such as Spanish and Indo-European languages are also used. There are many religions in the country, which include Christianity, Islam, Jewish, and Buddhist among others. The country is a constitution based federal republic. It uses the common law system that is based on the English common law (CIA, 2011)

Law Enforcement

The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for policing in Cuba. It comprises of the security operations, technical operations, and internal order and crime prevention directorates. The internal order and crime prevention directorates are further subdivided into policing, fire protection and corrections sub-directorates. The policing sub-directorate takes the responsibility of the National Revolutionary Police, which include the criminal investigation juvenile delinquency and traffic control. The ministry of the interior and the national revolutionary police work in collaboration with the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The National Revolutionary Police is assisted by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). The CDR works directly in the community where it helps to prevent crime and handle juvenile deviance. They also assist the victims of crime and report suspicious activity to the police (Michalowski, 2002).

Law enforcement in Japan aims at helping the community. They involve the community in their affairs and they reassure the community of their presence. Police box officers carry most of the workload. They work long hours, with a short change in shifts. They respond to emergencies, patrol and conduct door-to-door visits in homes and businesses. A residential police box officers work for only eight hours in a day and they work for five days. Officers on patrol cars usually arrest offenders and are the first ones to respond in areas of accidents and crime. In crime sites, the police gather the evidence, protect and maintain the site and protect the citizens. Police officers did not use to carry guns but this changed with the high incidences of crimes and direct assault to the officers. They are now required to use guns when necessary and to wear protective clothing under their uniforms, which helps them in case of knife attacks. They also carry other weapons such as police batons and nightsticks (NPA, n. d.). The citizens usually cooperate and respect their police force. The police officers are held in high esteem and most of them conduct themselves with dignity. Japan is largely a homogenous society and the police often treat foreigners with suspicion. They will often stop them and harass them in public places. Racial profiling has become common in Japan (Balakrishnan, 2010)

Law enforcement in the United States involves many different agencies and institutions. Law enforcement officers at the state, federal, county and local levels, work together, to provide security for the country. The American system also allows tribal law enforcement authorities to work in different parts of the country. There are more than twelve thousand local police agencies, forty-nine state police agencies and forty-two federal law enforcement agencies in the country. There are about 800,000 sworn police officers in the country. This is in addition to private policing in the country. The main roles of law enforcement agencies are to enforce the law, prevent crime and arrest suspected offenders, investigate crimes and provide social services (May et al., 2007).

Similarities exist in the law enforcement systems in the three countries. For instance, the agencies involved seem to understand the importance of community policing although they have different ways of doing this. Japan seems to be keen concerning community involvement than the other two countries. They also seem to discriminate against a particular group of people. In the US, law enforcement agencies seem to discriminate against the black community. In the US, black people tend to be arrested more than people from other races. In Cuba, human rights activists and other protestors from other political groups other than the communist party are usually arrested more than other groups in the country. Japan is largely a homogenous country and they discriminate against foreigners.

The Court System

The judiciary in Cuba is independent and the judges are free to make their ruling. All the criminal trials are conducted orally. Cuba allows the death penalty in special circumstances. The death penalty does not apply to people who are below twenty years and pregnant women (HRC, 2008). The first courts in Cuba’s judicial system are the municipal courts. They handle civil matters that are not of high importance and the lesser crimes. Each of the provinces in Cuba has provincial courts, which handle felony convictions, appeals from the municipal courts and civil matters such as divorce. The highest court in Cuba is the Supreme Court. The country also uses informal social courts, which solve issues such as labor disputes and some private disputes. Courts in Cuba comprise of professional judges and lay judges. The lay judges include ordinary people such as farmers, homemakers and university students. They are elected by mass organizations such as trade unions, and their neighbors. The lay judges serve for thirty days and they ensure that the judgment made is fair from all angles (Jamal, 2000).

In Japan, the judiciary is independent and this is made possible by the fact that all the judicial power is vested on the Supreme Court and the inferior courts. There are five types of law courts in Japan and they include the Supreme Court, the high court, district court, family court and the summary court. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the monarch and all the other justices are appointed by the cabinet from a list compiled by the Supreme Court. The judges are reappointed after ten years and they serve until retirement. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. The country defines a juvenile as a person who is below the age of twenty years and children who are under the age of fourteen are not held viable for the crimes they commit. Japan has strict standards on law practitioners. Attorneys, prosecutors and judges have the same qualifications and it is estimated that only 3% of the people who take the bar examinations pass. Because of these restrictions, there are very few law practitioners in a country with such a high population. The Japanese courts have not had a jury system for a long time. This changed when they reintroduced jury trials in 2009. The jury can question the defendant, victims and the witnesses. They then decide whether the defendant is guilty and they sentence him (Tabuchi & Donald, 2009).

The highest judicial branch in the country is the Supreme Court. Other courts include the court of appeal, district courts, state courts and the county courts. Americans believe that everyone is entitled to a fair trial. According to the American constitution, everybody is equal in the eyes of the law. Everybody is therefore entitled to fair representation. Some of the most important elements present in the American constitution include the due process clause and the right to a grand jury. This ensures that offenders are treated fairly in the court. Suspected offenders are entitled to a speedy trial. They have the right of being informed of the crime they have committed. The suspected offenders are entitled to have the representation of legal counsel and the government provides one for the ones who cannot afford a lawyer. The constitution also protects suspected offenders from excessive bail and fines, and cruel and unusual punishment (Hess et al., 2011). One of the most controversial elements of the US criminal justice systems is the death penalty. America is among some of the few developed countries that practice the death penalty. The number of prisoners on death row has continued to increase gradually since the seventies.

There are clear differences in the court systems of each country. This is especially the case with the treatment of offenders. Suspected offenders in the US are given fair representation than the other countries. This is enabled by the fact that the justice system relies on the constitution, and the constitution recognizes the importance of individual rights and freedom. Cuba includes the lay people when making decisions. Some of the similarities in the systems include the presence of the death penalty. However, only the US allows death penalty for juveniles. Another similarity is that in all the countries, the highest and final word lies with the Supreme Court.

The Correctional System  

The Cuban government monitors the prisons closely. It does not allow international bodies to its prison and it does not release information concerning the prisoners. Reports indicate that the Cuban prisoners are kept in harsh conditions. Many of the prisons are overcrowded and the prisoners are treated with cruelty. In most cases, prisoners are beaten, denied medical treatment, isolated, neglected and denied visits from family members (stategov). Reports indicate the suffering experienced by political prisoners in Cuba. The prisoners are usually beaten and some of them have even died at the hands of prison officers (Cuban Democratic Directorate, 2007). The Cuban correctional system places more emphasis on rehabilitating the offenders. Prisoners wear their street clothes, earn a comparable income and some prisoners are released before their term ends and allowed to work in factories and in farms (PRA, 2005). This system keeps the prisoners lives private and the co-workers are not informed of the offenders’ time in prison. The offenders are given time to visit their family members unsupervised twice a month for three days per given period. This ensures low recidivism rate (PRA, 2005). Prisons in Cuba use a graduate system where prisoners are moved from one regime to the next until they receive their parole. Prisoners are accorded parole according to their behavior and minimum sentence. The prison facilities are well built with lighting, group and individual cells, ventilation and sanitary facilities. Prisoners are also educated and their families are assisted financially. All the staff in female prisons is female. Prisoners are allowed conjugal visits. All the prisoners have access to free medical and dental health care and the pregnant prisoners receive specialized care and diet. Prisoners receive training courses, which include carpentry, handicraft, plumbing, welding, hairdressing and computing among others (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, n. d.).

The correctional system in Japan is headed by the director general of the correction bureau. Prisoners awaiting trial, penal suspects and defendants who pose the risk of escaping are held in detention centers. Offenders under the age of 26years are accommodated in the juvenile prisons. The juvenile classification home holds the juvenile delinquents for a period not exceeding eight weeks. During this time, the officials study the juvenile’s character and this is essential since it helps the family court to make better decisions. The penal institutions in Japan have different sections. These include the general affairs section, the treatment section-which deals with security and industry, the education and welfare section, and the classification and parole preparation section among others (UNAFEI, n. d.).

There are many correctional facilities and programs in the US. They include prisons, jails and half way houses. Offenders are also offered probation, parole supervision, work release programs, counseling and education. They can also undertake community services, which are usually accorded to the nature of the crime and age of the offender among other considerations. Suspected offenders who are awaiting trial are held in jails. America has the highest number of incarcerations in the world. There are many people in different correctional facilities such as prisons and community corrections. In addition to the prisons managed by the government, there are also private prisons that are managed by nongovernmental organizations. America is one of the few countries in the world that executes juveniles. Some of the juvenile offenders are held in adult prisons and some of them are facing life sentences without the possibility of parole. Conclusion

The criminal justice systems in each of the three countries have their own weaknesses and strengths. Although the government in Cuba maintains that it has improved its justice system, it lacks transparency. This makes it difficult for the international community to observe the situation in the prisons. If one were to believe the government reports, the conditions in the prison have improved a great deal and the United States can learn some lessons from it. For instance, the country has made it possible for the citizens to acquire different skills. The alternative prison program enables the prisoners to earn income and in this manner, they can help their families. This is a positive addition to the country’s justice system. If I were in a position to change the system in Cuba, I would change the fact that it is not transparent and it is therefore difficult to know the real picture. I think that a government that has all those positive contributions in its correctional system should be proud and should allow the international community to learn from it.

The criminal system in Japan is good for the juveniles. I like the fact that it takes time before prosecuting children. The US can learn a lot from this system. Children as young as nine years old are tried in courts, some of them have been imprisoned for life while others are awaiting death sentences. I would also keep the cordial and respectable relationships enjoyed by the police officers and the citizens. I also like the idea of juvenile correction homes, which give the juveniles a chance for fair treatment. I would change the fact that sometimes cases take too long to be tried and that the people who want to study law face many restrictions.

I like the fact that there are many correctional facilities and programs in the US. The system has taken time to design programs that will reform the prisoners. I also like the US constitution, especially the bill of rights, which makes sure that the various organs in the government do not abuse their power. I like the fact that prisoners have rights, especially the right to legal counsel, speedy trial and the right to fair representation. I would change the death penalty that is still prevalent in some states. I would change life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the juveniles. I would also change the fact that some juveniles are imprisoned together with the adults.

 

References:

Balakrishnan, S. (2010). Policing outside the region: Vol. 1: Police in Japan. Commonwealth Human Right Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.nipsa.in/newsletter/2010-2/october-2010/

CIA (2011). North America:: United States. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html

Cuban Democratic Directorate (2007). Cuban police brutality causes 4 prisoner deaths. Retrieved from http://www.directorio.org/pressreleases/note.php?note_id=1659

Hess, M. K., Orthmann, H. C., & Cho, L. H. (2011). Introduction to law enforcement and criminal justice. New York, NY: Cengage Learning

HRC (2008). National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 15 (A) of the annex to human rights council resolution 5/1 Cuba. Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/…/A_HRC_WG6_4_CUB_1_E.pdf

Jamal, A. M. (2000). Another law-another country. Retrieved from http://www.iacenter.org/polprisoners/maj_law.htm

May, C. D., Minor, I. K., Rudell, R., & Mathews, A. B. (2007). Corrections and the criminal justice system. Burlington, MA:  Jones & Bartlett Learning

Michalowski, R. (2002). World factbook of criminal justice systems. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/ascii/WFBCJCUB.TXT

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba (n. d.). Prison system. Retrieved from http://www.cubaminrex.cu/derechos%20humanos/articulos/consejoderechoshumanos/Informe/Ingles/Sist_Penitenciario.html

NPA (n. d.). The Japanese community police and police box system. Retrieved from www.npa.go.jp/english/seisaku1/JapaneseCommunityPolice.pdf

PRA (2005). The United States versus the World. Political Research Associates. Retrieved from www.defendingjustice.org/…/9-Fact%20Sheet%20-%20US%20vs%2…

Tabuchi, H., & McDonald, M. (August, 2009). In first return to Japan court, jurors convict and sentence. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/world/asia/07japan.html

UNAFEI (n. d.) Criminal justice in Japan. United Nations Asia and Far East Institute. Retrieved from www.unafei.or.jp/english/pdf/PDFcrimjust/chapter1.pdf

U.S. Department of State (2011). Background note: Cuba. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2886.htm

U.S. Department of State (2011). Background note: Japan. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/4142.htm

 

 

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