In the past decades, the United States of America has shown great efforts in stepping up its wars against crime. This has been accompanied by various initiatives and approaches both funded and overseen either by the government or other private bodies. Each of these projects has always had its objectives firmly targeted at enhancing the efforts to curb crime. When talking of crime, mentioning the aspect of criminal justice becomes practically inevitable. In The United States, the policy of criminal justice has largely been guided by the Presidential Commission on law enforcement and administration of justice which took effect in 1967. The commission comprised a ground breaking report which went with the title, “The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society”. This therefore offered the appropriate basis upon which the improvement of the various stated recommendations have since been based. In other words, from this very point, America has recorded a great progress in this fight by improving and implementing some of these historical policies. However, this does not erase the fact that a number of challenges have been faced on the way the institution has soldiered on.
The objectives of the larger concept of criminal justice would not have been easily achievable if are not for the reinforcement of other bodies and agencies. This therefore implies that there are numerous social agencies, which have since gained stability in the United States of America, whose operations in one or the other way have affected criminal justice. This discussion shall therefore comprise a compiled report of the study of a selected social agency which affects criminal justice in the US. In this case, the social agency that shall form the center of the discussion is “Welfare – Aid to Families with Dependent Children”. It is a fact that criminal justice in many other countries has always had the main objective of ensuring a morally upright society with minimal cases of criminal activities. It is a body that has a direct link and interaction with the society and this explains the connection that might well exist between social agencies and criminal justice. In this paper, we will explore this connection and find out benefits and threats it contains.
Despite the fact that the most critical information here will finally be the discussion of the findings, it is equally important to include the initially stated objectives. These shall then be compared with the final discussion of the obtained information in order to deduce whether or not the research met its desired purpose. The main objective of this research was to carry out a critical study or rather exploration of a social agency which affects the criminal justice in the United States of America. In order to achieve this in a detailed manner, a number of aspects concerning the selected social agency were obtained through the research process. Some of which include: a detailed history of the creation of the social agency, a presentation of the mission statement of the social agency as well as financial reports/summaries of the operations of the agency.
Definition of terms
Before revealing the methodology which was employed during this research, we shall briefly define some of the terms and phrases which shall have a vivid appearance in the further parts of the rest of this paper. Outlining their meanings will therefore help us to easily analyze the contents of the research report and also ensure that we are in a trail with the initially stated objectives.
Agency – the word “agency” to begin with can be defined as the capacity of individuals to behave in an independent manner and hence be in a position to make their own free choices. The debate over the primacy of the terms “structure” or “agency”, in the behavior of human beings, has been a key area of discussion in the field of social sciences.
Structure – in line with the statement above, we therefore ought to define the meaning of this term with respect to this context. It is defined as the repeated patterned arrangements which either limit or perhaps influence the choices and opportunities available to individuals.
A social agency can therefore be defined as a body that has the major responsibility of ensuring that individuals in a society become as independent as possible and are able to make effective decisions without having to be guided/helped.
Criminal justice, on the other hand, can be described as the system of practices as well as institutions of the government which have been directed at stabilizing social control. In addition, the body has the responsibility of mitigating and deterring crime or sometimes sanctioning those who violate laws with both rehabilitation efforts as well as criminal penalties. The criminal justice system is what, in this very discussion, we would call a structure. This is because it limits and hence influences the choices and opportunities available to individuals by trickling them down to those that are morally and socially acceptable only.
In order to ensure that the most effective channels are followed when obtaining information for a given research project, it is always vital to incorporate the best methodologies. This is because a good methodological approach will certainly go a long way in enhancing the eventual success of the whole venture. In this case, sampling of literary materials was utilized as the main methodological approach. The information was therefore obtained from sampled articles which’s contents proved to be relevant to the research issue.
To ensure that the selected materials were relevant and contained the needed information, they were thoroughly examined and this made sure that what was selected would largely help strengthen the discussion. In a nutshell, the main approach in this case involved sourcing information through literature review. However, the obtained information was also supplemented by interviews of the agency personnel as well as comparison of similar government agencies in various communities and service populations. In addition, important updates on current legislative initiatives in the area were also sampled to help offer more information for the discussion. At the same time, the relevant updates on the political analyses of the issues and services involved with the agency’s actions also proved to be fruitful during the sampling of information for this report.
Findings and Discussion
After sampling and finally interpreting the data, in an effort to obtain the most relevant information necessary for this discussion, the research helped us to learn so much about the social agency. This portion shall therefore comprise a more detailed analysis of certain key aspects with a close reference to the research objectives which had earlier been stated in this paper.
The research revealed that the social agency “Welfare – Aid to Families with Dependent Children” usually shortened as AFDC was a federal assistance initiative which has been in effect since 1935. It was created by the social security act. This initiative was then administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The main mission of this agency is to provide financial assistance to children who hail from single parent families or simply those whose families have low income. This program got to grow from a relatively smaller part of the social security system but due to its effectiveness, it has since become a significant system of welfare which is administered by the States under federal funding. Despite its effectiveness, it did not miss the critics’ sharp eyes. At some point, allegations spread that the agency offered incentives for women to have children. At the same time, some individuals noted that it provided disincentives for women to join the workforce.
In the initial stages, the agency had the label “Aid to Dependent Children” but as a part of the new deal, which was later struck, there was an addition to that name “families with”. This step was taken due to the rise of concerns and issues that some, if not all, rules tended to encourage single parenthood hence were discouraging marriage. By the year 1996, the welfare program had hit an annual spending note of $24 billion. After an adjustment, which was done to take care of the emergent inflation, the highest spending ever hit by this program exceeded the 1996 spending by about 8%. Right from such early periods, the results of the research indicate that the agency has continuously allowed exemptions which are state-specific as long as the change does not compromise its mission and objectives.
All the discussion above has been centered entirely on the social agency. At this point, it is important to introduce the connection between it and criminal justice in the United States of America. From the review of relevant literature and information from credible sources, it has since been established that one of the factors that has always led to the increase in rebellious activities among youths is poverty. This, laced with idleness and subsequently drug abuse, make the youths and, at times, extremely vulnerable children to peer pressure. They therefore find themselves on the wrong side of the law, constantly taking part in criminal activities (Harvey, 2010).
Research also indicates that most of the vices in the society are usually undertaken by youths whose childhood was characterized by poor parenting. Well, poor parenting might not be all about the parents poorly attending to their responsibilities as parents but also a case when one of the parents totally fails in his/her responsibilities about children. In continuation of this flow, according to the information obtained from the research, it is clear that most individuals end up in crime with the misguided target of getting large amounts of cash to lead expensive lives without necessity to work. This is exactly where the body of criminal justice comes in to restore parity and try as much as possible to avoid such occurrence. This is the very point where the social welfare agency comes in. How does this happen? The above outlined discussion indicates that the dependent children are the most likely to commit crime when they are entirely out of source for livelihood (David, 2000). The support offered by the welfare organizations to such families is aimed to keep children from thoughts of taking part in unwanted activities in order to obtain money. This therefore brings out an example of one way in which the social agency affects criminal justice.
The great efforts exhibited by this agency due to the continuous modifications within its structure have therefore helped curb the problem of crime both in a direct and indirect manner. It is also important to note that the good work has been buoyed by the highly motivated staff members and employees who have always been exposed to rewards, incentives as well as a superb working environment (Goodman, 2008). In addition to that, the interviews with the workers also revealed that the agency comprises well trained personnel which each individual specializing in his/her respective field. This increases productivity and output of the workers towards the agency’s objectives since each worker is able to handle an area with which he/she is well versed.
Despite the great efforts and the relatively notable achievements by this agency, it is also important to point out a few areas in which a readjustment may be required in order to improve the effectiveness of its operations. The truth of the matter is that that, as much as the social agency may manage to offer help to the families with dependent children, the requirements might become overwhelming with time especially if the dependent fail to get a long lasting solution to their situation (David, 2000). The agency can therefore consider creating more employment opportunities in addition to the financial aid offered to these individuals. This is because continuing to offer financial assistance without having to work would only encourage laziness an eventually leads to appearance of very unproductive individuals in the society. It is therefore one of my recommendations that the agency should also seek to offer other lasting approaches as far as financial assistance to these families remains. However, with the previously recorded history of good performance, it is no doubt that the agency will thrive and continue to be a major anchor as it has been to the system of criminal justice.
The above discussion, in relation to the findings of the research, gave us a deeper insight of the social welfare agency and, that is more important, of its relationship with the criminal justice in the US. The main objective of this research was to explore this agency and hence establish how it affects the criminal justice in the United States. By employing the methodologies, the most relevant information was obtained, sampled, interpreted and finally discussed to give a comprehensive response to the research objective(s). This indicates that the research was a successful one. After noticing the importance of such agencies especially to criminal justice, it is important for the government to step up funding for such bodies in the country. This is because their effects go a long way in bringing benefits to many other bodies within the society including those with which they may not be directly affiliated.