In many countries across the world, governments through presidents often use courts for political reasons. This is possible despite judges being independent and fully guaranteed by different constitutions. This assertion has never been respected considering how governments often abuse democracy and independence of the judicial systems. It has been established that despite executive corrupting its ways to influence judicial decisions, most courts have consistently ruled against them (Banks, 2013). Legal practitioners have affirmed that executive possess overwhelming powers over the judiciary because of low salaries and meager bonuses (Banks, 2013). There has never been a comprehensive definition of government corruption though many people agree that it negatively influences judicial decisions and thus affect criminal justice in totality. United Nations in a convention defined government corruption as dishonest and illegal behavior conducted by people in authority. The paper examines impacts of government corruption on criminal justice. It evaluates how government corruption often affects decisions of courts and the entire criminal justice system.
Impacts of Government Corruption on Criminal Justice System
Corruption is a complex phenomenon that covers comprehensive setups of social, political and economic perspectives. It is an internationally recognized concept and is capable of endangering stability of a nation, interfering with the security of society and threatening social, economic and political dimensions of a country. Significantly, corruption can threaten democracy and morality set up of a community while negatively affecting criminal justice system of a country. It has been established that corruption affects major decisions touching on prosperity and wellbeing of people and so reducing corruption should be a priority of any country (Blackburn, Fowler & Pollock, 2014). Transparency international has often developed mechanisms aimed at fighting government corruption. In light of this, the international body frequently published corruption index of different countries and how they affect administration of justice in society.
Government corruption through bribery and misappropriation of funds by those in authority has greatly affected criminal justice process in many countries across the globe. This has posed serious implications to both human rights and administration of efficient justice. Most organizations have been established to help reduce government corruption because corrupt activities have become plentiful and have attracted more attention (Blackburn, Fowler & Pollock, 2014). These organizations have been on the forefront of examining links between government corruption, administration of justice and security of the society. Andrea Huber, a policy director in United States has described numerous ways through which government corruption manifests itself in many criminal justice systems.
Government corruption may be felt in every stage of criminal justice chain because it can potentially occur in police stations, offices of prosecutors, the judicial system and in prisons. Corruption may be the reason why politicians and ministers are detained in the first place, but it may also inhibit access of due process and access to basic rights enshrined in the constitution. At the onset, government institutions dealing with maintenance of law and order may misuse their power of arrest and extort money from criminals. After arrests, corruption by government agencies may instigate use of bribes to help prevent torture or abuse. During criminal proceeding, government agencies and their officers may receive payments in form of bribes from families of accused and in the process fail to forward a case for prosecution. Studies have established that corruption in government agencies is the reason for slow pace of criminal administration in many states (Blackburn, Fowler & Pollock, 2014). A Nigerian judge once said, “Corruption in government institutions is the only reason that can explain the snail’s speed at which the administration of criminal justice works” (Blackburn, Fowler & Pollock, 2014).
Government corruption foster impunity in criminal justice system because of corrupt acts committed by police officers, people the government has tasked to ensure law and order. This is possible in situations where criminals receive lighter or no punishment at all for their heinous acts. Police officers may assist them to obstruct criminal justice process and continue more injustice to the victims. Further, senior police officers may also interfere with investigations after receiving advantage in terms of bribes. They may even travel to other jurisdictions to ensure that cases involving powerful criminals are dropped or they can aid criminals to escape. There have been instances of missing files especially when cases are involving powerful criminals, in such a situation judicial process is impeded for lack of evidence to pin down criminals.
Corruption in government institutions like prison has been a factor for incarceration of individuals beyond the pre-trial stage. This has been the case with detainees who are frequently held beyond their release date because they are unable to provide advantage through bribes for processing of relevant documents. In this case it effectively inhibit successful administration of criminal justice, this can be supported by a document report that detailed how a judge was accused for allegedly helping to convict juveniles and receiving a bribe from a detention center.
Corruption in government institution for administration of justice has often hindered access to court hearings and appeal trials. On the same note, detainees may also have to pay for friendly transfers to be able to physically attend court hearings physically. This may possibly affect negatively the due process of law thus hindering administration of criminal justice. One lawyer once said, “As word spreads amongst inmates that the opportunity to attend an appeal hearing still comes with a hefty price tag, far beyond the means of the vast majority of prisoners, many will come to one of two conclusions – not to appeal at all, or to allow their appeal to go ahead in absentia” (Clear, Cole & Reisig, 2013). On the same case of prisons, many are operated in ways that limits public oversight and are good grounds for corruption. Detainees may be in positions to facilitate corrupt practices especially where prisons offers large black markets and can be haven for criminals working while in detention. Prisoners may circumnavigate the entire system by cooperating with prison guards to smuggle drugs and manage gangs even when still in prison.
Corrupt practices highlighted have greater implications than illegal activities because their presence is instigated by destroyed regulations that are meant to ensure safety of prisoners and staff. It has been established that government officers involved in corrupt activities may at the end be vulnerable and often left defenseless against potential abuse and exploitation (Cole & Smith, 2005). In corrupt prison systems, prisoners are often coerced to pay for commodities and supplies that they are entitled to including basic amenities such as water, medical care and space. Moreover, it has been established that money is extorted from family members of prisoners to ensure their safety by relocating them to safer zones within the prison, and places devoid of sexual abuse from guards or fellow prisoners (Dammer & Albanese, 2014). Consequently, corrupt practices may send inmates to solitary confinement occasioned by misbehavior or weird disciplinary record to avoid the impacts of interactions and influence. To women detainees, corruption is often linked to sexual exploitation where prison guards extort sexual favors from women to get better treatment, good food and better hygiene. One female prisoner said, “If you exchange sexual favors you are treated better. If you don’t you are treated like crap” (Dammer & Albanese, 2014). It has been opined that prisoners may offer sexual advances to prison guards in order to secure protection and access quality services (Dammer & Albanese, 2014). Government corruption is manifested through misappropriation of funds; this is when intended funds meant for prison supplies are diverted or stolen. It can be remember that in one country, many funds meant for food supplies were diverted and good never purchased, in the same year many prisoners died due to malnutrition.
Significantly, corruption leads to inherent violations of human rights and rule of law and in the process subjects a lot of pressure on the criminal justice system. Illegal activities discussed above creates a strong inducement to maintain status quo making sure that funds meant to stir forward the judicial system never reach its actual destination. Subsequently, corruption and violation of human rights may deprive people of their liberty as they are intertwined. It is because of this that many agencies today are coming up with mechanism and measures to clamp government corruption. This will ensure human rights and rule of law are observed to the latter to fight impunity and ensure an independent and efficient criminal justice system.
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