A suspect’s rap sheet could be costly if they happen to be convicted again. This was the case with two brothers arrested in Sacramento, California, following the murder of six people. Upon unraveling their histories, it was discovered that they had several prior convictions, prompting several parties to push for stringent sentences.
How the Media Deals With Suspects’ Rap Sheets
From shoplifting to physical assault, an individual’s criminal record can later be used against them as evidence of continued crime. However, John Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law, explains that rap sheets reveal the effects of the failing legal system.
According to Pfaff, most journalists bring up criminals’ prior convictions cynically. Stories of failed criminals with long rap sheets are more publicized than successful ones. So, whenever a person is convicted, Americans are quick to check their history and quickly relate it to the subsequent crime.
Consequently, law and order politicians have used this as an excuse to avoid working with specific groups. As Pfaff explained, re-incarceration and re-entry reflect systemic failure.
It is often challenging to tell the stories of released convicts who, after their release, got their lives together. Most of them prefer to keep this part of their lives private, and unless the individual gives consent, you cannot share their stories.
As criminals with prior convictions continue to get re-incarcerated, it may be easy to conclude that individuals with a particular record should get arrested to prevent other crimes.
The Role of the Society in Suspect Rap Sheets
Sometimes, Americans’ concern over rap sheets comes from a good place. These may be people who genuinely care for public safety and thus believe that prior convictions could influence future crimes. Therefore, society should consider permanent safety measures after three or four arrests and releases.
From this point of view, you can view rap sheets as a resource for public safety. On the other hand, it can be an excuse to avoid rehabilitating someone, and while it may be a commendable short-term solution, it has consistently failed in the long run.
Tools for Ex-convicts to Prevent Re-Incarceration
Prisons have strict schedules that convicts must follow to the letter. These programs are intended to keep the prisoners at bay as they serve their sentences. However, research has shown that this system has failed as it does not help prisoners overcome the challenges that led to prison in the first place.
Most convicts have directly or indirectly been affected by trauma in one way or another. Therefore, they get arrested for their crimes, go to prison, get exposed to more trauma, go through an ineffective system and finally return to a society that is not equipped with resources to help them get back on track. This proves that for some ex-convicts, it is not an issue of personal failure, but legal failure.
Nevertheless, it is time the legal system implements measures to offer released criminals proper drug treatment and therapy as this helps them rehabilitate, reducing the chances of re-incarceration.
“Holding a suspect’s criminal past against them could help make our streets safer and predict future crimes. However, it is equally a clear representation of how legal and correctional systems are failing.” says criminal defense lawyer Kush Arora. Therefore, the legal system needs to find a compromise and devise measures for both society and ex-convicts in need of rehabilitation.