Criminal Justice and Technology

Computer and telecommunications technologies in criminal justice system have developed at an extraordinary rate. Increased computing power, advances in data transmission and attractive and user-friendly graphic interfaces present law enforcement agencies with unprecedented capacity to collect, store, analyze and share data with stakeholders inside and outside of government.
Technology in criminal justice field represents a tool to help local law enforcement achieve its broadened and increasingly complex mission. But whether this capability is fully realized, and at what pace, is not a foregone conclusion. Preliminary studies suggest that if its integration is not well managed, some aspects of technology may meet with resistance among officers and other staff, particularly when such technology is perceived as unfairly intrusive or technically cumbersome.
Historically, technological innovation has served as the catalyst for dramatic changes in the organization of police work and has presented both opportunities and challenges to police and other criminal justice practitioners, according to Janet Chan, a social scientist who has studied how technology affects the way police do their jobs. Noting that information is the stocking- trade of policing, Chan has identified three general imperatives driving law enforcement’s investment in information technology:

1. A Technology-driven imperative to improve effectiveness and efficiency by increasing the capacity to store and process large volumes of data; Improving intelligence and investigative capabilities; and providing ready access to criminal records and other kinds of relevant data.
2. An Information-driven imperative to satisfy increasing demands to share data with external entities, including other government agencies, the public and other outside entities such as insurance companies and other businesses; and
3. A Policy-driven imperative to meet the requirements of new forms of police management and accountability, in terms of probity, cost effectiveness, and procedural regularity, including systems designed to provide early warning for police use of force complaints. Under this new order, police are being scrutinized internally by management systems, surveillance technologies, internal audits and investigations and externally by watchdog agencies, public complaint systems and central auditors. As Chan notes, information technology provides a tool not only for policing citizens, but also for policing the police.
Important technologies in the Criminal Justice System
DNA- The past decade has seen great advances in a powerful criminal justice tool: deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. This one can be used to identify criminals with incredible accuracy when biological evidence exists. By the same token, DNA can be used to clear suspects and exonerate persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes. In all, DNA technology is increasingly vital to ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system.
DNA is generally used to solve crimes in one of two ways. In cases where a suspect is identified, a sample of that person’s DNA can be compared to evidence from the crime scene. The results of this comparison may help establish whether the suspect committed the crime. In cases where a suspect has not yet been identified, biological evidence from the crime scene can be analyzed and compared to offender profiles in DNA databases to help identify the perpetrator. Crime scene evidence can also be linked to other crime scenes through the use of DNA databases.
DNA evidence is generally linked to DNA offender profiles through DNA databases. In the late 1980s, the federal government laid the groundwork for a system of national, state, and local DNA databases for the storage and exchange of DNA profiles. This system, called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), maintains DNA profiles obtained under the federal, state, and local systems in a set of databases that are available to law enforcement agencies across the country for law enforcement purposes.
CODIS can compare crime scene evidence to a database of DNA profiles obtained from convicted offenders. CODIS can also link DNA evidence obtained from different crime scenes, thereby identifying serial criminals. In order to take advantage of the investigative potential of CODIS, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, states began passing laws requiring offenders convicted of certain offenses to provide DNA samples. Currently all 50 states and the federal government have laws requiring that DNA samples be collected from some categories of offenders.
Fingerprints- offer an infallible means of personal identification. That is the essential explanation for their having supplanted other methods of establishing the identities of criminals reluctant to admit previous arrests. The science of fingerprint Identification stands out among all other forensic sciences for many reasons, including the following: * Has served all governments worldwide during the past 100 years to provide accurate identification of criminals. No two fingerprints have ever been found alike in many billions of human and automated computer comparisons. Fingerprints are the very basis for criminal history foundation at every police agency on earth. * Established the first forensic professional organization, the International Association for Identification (IAI), in 1915.
* Established the first professional certification program for forensic scientists, the IAI’s Certified Latent Print Examiner program (in 1977), issuing certification to those meeting stringent criteria and revoking certification for serious errors such as erroneous identifications. * Remains the most commonly used forensic evidence worldwide – in most jurisdictions fingerprint examination cases match or outnumber all other forensic examination casework combined.
* Continues to expand as the premier method for identifying persons, with tens of thousands of persons added to fingerprint repositories daily in America alone – far outdistancing similar databases in growth. * Worldwide, fingerprints harvested from crime “scenes lead to more suspects and generate more evidence in court than all other forensic techniques combined”. Other visible human characteristics change – fingerprints do not.

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