One of the many challenges faced by the criminal justice system is how to evolve in an ever-changing culture, and with the ever-changing nature of crimes. There was an era when the idea of mental instability wouldn’t have cut any water in a court of law; now, due to advances the science of psychiatry, as well as the criminal justice system evolving to meet those advances, mental acuity is a seriously considered factor in the prosecution of crimes. The same principle applies to technology, and how it is used to ensure fairness in criminal justice.
Every day, technology blurs the line between reality and the real world. It’s the same medium that brings newspapers, TV channels and entire music catalogues to our fingertips, but also leads people to commit suicide over taunts, and others to lose money because their banks’ websites were hacked. As technology advances the world, it advances the criminal justice system. But where such advancements in the world comes at a cost, it also presents opportunities for law enforcement to perfect the many sciences of what they do.
When Faster is Better
Technology could, for example, speed up investigations to quicker eliminate or pinpoint suspects involved in a crime. Fingerprint and DNA scans can be performed within hours of an incident, allowing police to apprehend a perpetrator faster and ensure innocent individuals are not caught up in a net that is cumbersomely broad.
The other side of the coin is that technology (working with forensics) could also clear people incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. Many charges have been overturned because DNA and blood testing were unavailable at the time of the initial investigation. Re-examining the case, with the appropriate technological tools at the police’s disposal, has saved many a life from life imprisonment or the lethal injection.
Impartiality and Less Clutter
Similarly, the more precise (and theoretically impartial) methods of investigation, and resultant evidence, afforded by technology could conceivably erase witness testimony that may be unwittingly biased or otherwise inaccurate.
The Marin County Sheriff’s Department points out another problem – there is always more crime than law enforcement. Police offices are sometimes overwhelmed with paperwork, and jails are often overcrowded. The responsible use of technology can clear administrative backlog and bureaucracy, ensuring that judicial processes are not delayed or otherwise confounded. Computer databases replacing stacks of paperwork can be the difference between letting an innocent party go free because their records could be found more quickly, and condemning someone to fall through the cracks due to a misplaced file.
The same can apply in a lawyer’s office, where a trained e-discovery consultant could easily find a vital piece of evidence that might otherwise have remained hidden under a mountain of other data.
The Click of Justice
As technology marches inexorably forwards, its proper use will help make the criminal justice system more efficient. No system will ever be perfect, but as those who would commit crimes get ever more resourceful, technology can ensure that the guilty people are punished, and the innocent are freed.