Communication Within the Criminal Justice System
According to Mohan & McGrecore (45), communication can be conceptualised as a two way process, an interaction between two parties. It involves sending of the message by the communicator, and reception of the same by the recipient. The sender of the message uses codes such as words and gestures to pass it (Mohan & McGrecore 78). The coded messages pass through a channel or a media, such as the radio, television or a printed media such as a letter or a newspaper. The coded message can also be passed across directly, for example in a conversation taking place on a face to face basis.
When the recipient gets the message from the channel or the media that has been used to send it, it is up to them to decode. They decode by making sense of the codes used by the communicator, or in other words interpreting the codes. An important thing to note here is that the sender and the recipient must be sharing the meaning of the symbols used in communicating; otherwise the meaning of the message will be lost on the recipient (Grellier 45). When the recipient gets the message, it is up to them to create meaning of the symbols used in coding it, symbols such as words and gestures.
In the whole process of communication, from the coding of the message to the decoding by the recipient, several principles are at play. These are what Mohan & McGrecore (98) refers to as principles of communication in their book by the same title. These principles include the interaction between the sender of the message and the recipient, the topic or content of the message, the channel used to send the message, factors that may affect the communication, such as environmental factors, among others.
This paper is going to look at the principles of communication that were learned in class within the context of a criminal justice system in the country. The researcher is going to investigate an organisation within the criminal justice system and look at the principles of communication within the context of this organisation. The organisation selected for this assignment is the probation department. The researcher will first give a descriptive narrative of the organisation, including the role in plays within the criminal justice system and within the society at large. The principles of communication that are used in this organisation will then be analysed. The strengths and weaknesses of this organisation as far as the principles of communication are concerned will be provided, and recommendation riding on this will then be provided.
The Probation Department: An Organisation within the Criminal Justice System
A Descriptive Narrative
According to the European Organisation for Probation (herein referred to as EOP), probation is one of the major organisations or departments in a countrys criminal justice system (6). The probation office plays a vital role in this system by supervising and guiding offenders who have been released from the countrys prison system, or who are yet to be sentenced by the courts. There is a synergy between the role that is played by the probation department and the roles that are played by the rest of the criminal justice system organisations. For example, the probation department provides the court with a social inquiry report that informs the court whether the offender can benefit from a non-custodial sentence or not. This helps the court in making the important decision touching on the rehabilitation of the offender. On the other hand, the department provides the prison department with social reports regarding the social environment within which an offender from the prison is to be released into. The prison authorities are able to discern, from this report, whether the offender will be effectively integrated within the community or not.
The probation department also plays a major role in rehabilitating offenders, and integrating them within the community that they come from. This is especially so for those offenders who are ordered by the courts to serve a probation sentence instead of a custodial sentence (European Organisation of Probation 9). The following are some of the roles of the probation organisation within the criminal justice system:
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The Role of the Probation Organisation within the Criminal Justice System
According to the European Organisation for Probation (4), the criminal justice system is made up of several parties. These include the community, the prison department, the judiciary, the probation department among others. The roles of the probation organisation will be looked at within this wider context. The following are the core roles of the organisation:
- Carrying out of presentence social enquiries and furnishing the courts with presentence reports (EOP 5). These reports aids the courts in dispensing justice to the offender, furnishing the courts with vital social information
- Carrying out social enquiry reports at the behest of various discharge boards (EOP 5). The the information to determine the suitability of the those to be released, and this is important in reducing congestion in holding institutions such as the prisons
- Supervising offenders who had been put under non-custodial sentence by the court. This is conducted through guidance and counselling of the offender, and ensuring that they adhere to the orders given by the courts
- Supervising of aftercare supervisees, for example those offenders who had been released from prison on parole to serve the rest of their sentence outside the prison (EOP 8)
- The department also provides temporary accommodation to offenders that are deemed to be needy and deserving of the same. This is for example those offenders whose home environments are hostile to them to the extent of making rehabilitation and resettlement of the offender impossible
The above are just some of the roles of this organisation. Others include rehabilitation of offenders, reintegration of the same back into the community, and generation as well as documentation and handling of data (EOP 4).
Principles of Communication within the Probation Organisation
As earlier indicated in this paper, several communication principles are evident in various organisations in contemporary society. The department of probation within the countrys criminal justice system is no exception. The following are some of the principles of communication that the researcher observed from the department:
Hegarty (2) notes that one of the major principles of communication is getting an appropriate feedback. This scholar is of the view that sending of the message on the part of the sender is not enough communication. Sending out letters and circulars to the members of an organisation is not enough. There is need to ensure that the recipient did in fact receive the message, and they should acknowledge this reception.
It is through feedback that the sender of the message can determine whether the recipient was listening to the message or not, and if they agreed with the contents of the message or not.
Some elements of feedback were observed in the probation department. Most of the communications in this department were done through letters from the headquarters, or circulars. Also, the head of the department would communicate with the staff in their division through circulars that were pinned on the , or sent to the member of staffs desk.