In every country, there are always individuals who commit crimes; therefore, governments have built prisons so as to isolate criminals from the rest of society. However, prisons are currently overcrowded, which creates a need for alternative ways of punishment. These alternative ways are employed to punish individuals for petty crimes and save prison space for dangerous criminals. Among the main methods which policemen utilize during investigations is forensics. Forensic scientists collect physical evidence at the crime scene and analyze it in the laboratory to compare DNA or fingerprints of the culprit to those stored in the database. While issuing identification cards, an official authority takes fingerprints of every individual and adds them to a large database. With the help of this procedure, investigations have become easier since the police should only collect evidence at the crime scene and search the database to find a match.
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The Use of Forensics in Criminal Justice Investigations
Forensic science concentrates on the examination and interpretation of physical evidence gathered at the crime scene. This evidence is examined in the laboratory, and obtained results can assist the police in identifying criminals and reconstructing the crime which they committed. For instance, the examination of a bullet in the body of the victim may help to identify the type and model of the gun which was used to murder a person. Forensics can be used in the following ways.
Identification and Classification. In the up-to-date laboratory, the forensic scientist does various tests to identify and classify physical evidence found at the crime scene. For example, the analysis can reveal that a white powder is cocaine or any other illegal substance. By examining fire debris, forensic scientists can discover that it contains a volatile liquid and prove that the fire was started deliberately. In addition, as it has already been mentioned, experts can classify the type of the bullet and gun from which it was fired. With the help of laboratory tests, scientists can also determine whether the blood is of human or animal origin (Peterson et al. 17). Forensic science allows experts to link evidence from crime scenes (DNA, fingerprints, drugs, weapons) to criminals.
Individualization. The development of computer technologies enables police officers to easily keep and retrieve data from the database. In order to identify a criminal, forensic scientists compare the item of evidence “with a reference standard of known source” to discover if they are identical and have a common origin (Peterson et al. 18). With the help of such comparison, experts connect specific individuals, instruments of the crime, and physical environments (Peterson et al. 18). For instance, the use of DNA profiling tests has made criminal investigation easier since a small amount of body fluid is enough to identify those individuals who are involved in the crime. Moreover, the police use computerized databases for storing fingerprint information which is frequently used during investigations. Forensic experts always thoroughly examine the crime scene trying to find fingerprints and compare them with those stored in the database.
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Reconstruction and Corroboration. The examination of evidence greatly assists the expert in revealing how the crime was committed. By reconstructing movements and interactions between suspects and victims, forensic scientists can either corroborate or refute the suspects’ or witnesses’ statements (Peterson et al. 19). Forensics helps police officers to find inconsistencies between testimonies and discover that a person lies. For instance, a witness may state that the victim was killed with an arrow, however, the forensic medical examination of the body indicates that he/she was shot. This means that a witness gives false testimony because he/she wants to conceal some facts or because he/she did not see how the crime occurred.
Imprisonment and Its Alternatives
Imprisonment and other alternative punishments ensure that offenders are isolated from the rest of society and help to lower recidivism rates. Problems associated with high costs of running prisons due to overcrowding and the increased incidence of chronic diseases have led to the use of alternative ways of punishment. Different punishment methods are discussed below.
Imprisonment. Imprisonment is the isolation of offenders in order to decrease crime levels and prevent recidivism. It is believed that those individuals who commit crimes should be punished and isolated from others. To make criminals reconsider their behavior, they are incarcerated and have very limited rights. Imprisonment is considered to be the effective way of changing criminals’ behavior. There are two mechanisms that explain how imprisonment helps to suppress unwanted behavior. The first economic mechanism makes individuals fear to waste much of their time in prisons instead of working hard to earn money. Therefore, in order to save their time and not to be sent to prison, individuals will try not to engage in illegal activities (Henry 4). The psychological model presupposes that people are conditioned from birth to remember that antisocial behavior is always punished and it is necessary to obey the law. Both mechanisms are successful in lowering the number of people who get involved in crime.
Alternative Punishments and Rehabilitation. Alternative punishments are employed to punish individuals for petty crimes such as drinking in public, shoplifting, petty thefts, traffic offenses, etc. The first alternative type of punishment is probation. Probation is a sentence that allows the offender to continue living in the community under the supervision of probation officers (Palombo and Mugisha 12). When a person is on probation, he/she should attend treatment programs, counseling sessions, and therapy as well as perform unpaid work which is beneficial to the community. This alternative reduces overcrowding in prisons and prevents young offenders from becoming hardened criminals. The second alternative type of punishment is the imposition of fines. This form of punishment requires an individual to pay a certain amount of money proportional to his/her income (Palombo and Mugisha 32). In this case, a person will be discouraged from repeating the same crime due to the loss of the significant sum of money. The last alternative to imprisonment is the settlement of the case outside the court (Palombo and Mugisha 19). This alternative brings healing and reconciliation to both parties as the victim chooses which punishment the offender deserves. Moreover, it allows the offender to receive the victim’s forgiveness.
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Crime is a serious social issue; therefore, the police always develop new methods of crime investigation in order to bring criminals to justice and discourage other people from engaging in illegal activities. One of such methods is forensics that helps police officers to quickly solve crimes. At the crime scene, forensic scientists examine every evidence and perform various laboratory tests to identify those individuals who are involved in crimes. There are different types of punishment used to make criminals reconsider their behavior and prevent recidivism. Imprisonment is the effective type of punishment presupposing the isolation of criminals from the rest of society. However, due to overcrowding and enormous expenses associated with running prisons, alternative punishment methods are frequently used. Probation, the imposition of fines, and settlement of the case outside the court are the main alternatives to imprisonment which are employed to punish people who committed petty crimes. They help to save money and prison space for violent criminals who pose a serious threat to society.