Politics and Criminal Law

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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Most Americans believe that criminal law drives criminal punishment. However, due to their lack of knowledge about the criminal system, they are wrong. At least according to a Harvard Law School Professor, William J. Stuntz. In his essay, The Pathological Politics of Criminal Law, he focuses on how criminal codes are misleading and filled with overlapping crimes. The rules are simply too broad, which often makes them morally wrong and socially destructive. Law enforcers, and not the law itself, decide who goes to prison and for what crime. Legislators, prosecutors, and judges don't often work together like they should to improve the criminal law system. There is simply too much politics involved in the process of creating criminal codes, and politicians only work in their own best interest. Stuntz proposes some solutions for changing the way rules are defined and enforced, but doesn't strongly believe that criminal law's structural problems will end anytime soon.

"Criminal law is both broad and deep: A great deal of conduct is criminalized, and of that conduct, a large proportion is criminalized many times over (pg. 9)." Politicians always look to make the punishment even harsher than it is to please the general public. People want to see criminals get put away for a very long time. That's why one crime violates many laws, and prosecutors, backed by the Lax, are allowed to charge a criminal with not one, but many crimes. This often makes felons into felons many times over.

Criminal law consists of two fields: The FBI's crime index, which covers a few core crimes and is mainly the focus of attention, and second one which covers everything else and dominates the criminal codes. In the past century the codes have grown significantly, and in some states petty things such as...