Tx Govt Ch 12 Summary
In an attempt to impose their values on others, the dominant elements of society have turned to government with its power to define crime and punish it. Law reflects the values of the people who make and enforce it.
Within the American legal system, cases are classified as either civil or criminal. Civil cases primarily involve the rights of private parties or organizations. Resolution is based on the concept of responsibility rather than guilt.
Tort actions are common in civil law. The Texas legislature, in an effort to lighten overcrowded court dockets and limit allegedly frivolous suits, has undertaken tort reform. At the urging of business, insurance companies, and medical professionals, it has restricted lawsuits and limited awards for damages.
Correctional institutions such as prisons and jails are intended to punish, deter, isolate, and rehabilitate. Unfortunately, they perform these functions poorly, and a majority of inmates return to crime after their release.
Criminal cases deal with public concepts of proper behavior and morality as defined by law. Punishment for a conviction ranges from a fine to imprisonment to a combination of both. More serious crimes are called felonies, and minor crimes are called misdemeanors. Although younger, less educated members of ethnic minorities living in cities are still more likely to be arrested for crime than other demographic groups, overall crime rates have declined in recent years.
It is largely through due process that the courts aim to blend two conflicting goals of society: (1) to protect society according to the state’s legal concepts of right and wrong, and (2) to protect the rights of the individual charged with wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the goal of due process is often an ideal rather than a reality. These careful guarantees of due process are often circumvented by the practice of plea bargaining.
The court procedures that constitute due process aim to promote justice and protect individuals from the government. These procedures are generally either written into state and national constitutions and statutes or included in traditional codes of court process.
Texas has a higher crime rate than most states, even though Texas has imprisoned a larger % of its population than China, Russia, and Iran. Texas has also incarcerated a larger percentage of its population than all but three other states and has a larger proportion of its population on probation or parole than most states.
On the basis of comparison with other states, no conclusive evidence shows that incarcerating a large portion of the population effectively deters crime because punishment is neither swift nor certain in Texas or any other state.
Texas executes more death row inmates than any other state but still has a higher murder rate than most states.
The most likely explanation for why Texas has a higher crime rate than most states is that it has a high proportion of young, minority, urban, poorly educated, low income residents among its population.