Agency slack and the design of criminal justice institutions

Authored by: Aziz Z. Huq

The Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415708654
eBook ISBN: 9781315885933
Adobe ISBN: 9781134619450


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Crimes are investigated, prosecuted, and adjudicated by agents of the state such as the police, prosecutors, judges, and juries. In all jurisdictions, the legal authority exercised by each of these agents is circumscribed by constitutional rules, statutes, regulations, or internal guidelines. These legal constraints are intended to ensure that individual suspects’ constitutional and human rights are not violated. But it is tolerably clear that agents do not always observe the letter or spirit of those constraints. Police, for example, can and do target suspects on the basis of impermissible criteria, such as race, class, perceived sexuality, or religion. They occasionally employ unlawful methods for extracting information, such as illegal searches or coercive interrogations. And when a criminal offense comes to be adjudicated, prosecutors, judges, and juries may violate legal rules due to bad motives, negligence, or simple ignorance. The result of such abuse, neglect, and error is the impairment of highly esteemed constitutional and human rights to privacy, equality, and liberty from arbitrary state action.

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