Compare and contrast Herbert Packer’s models of due process and crime control

Compare and contrast Herbert Packer’s models of due process and crime control

Ever since Herbert Packer published “Two Models of the Criminal Process” in 1964, much thinking about criminal justice has been influenced by the construction of models. Models provide a useful way to cope with the complexity of the criminal process. They allow details to be simplified and common themes and trends to be highlighted. “As in the physical and social sciences, [models present] a hypothetical but coherent scheme for testing the evidence” produced by decisions made by thousands of actors

in the criminal process every day.2 Unlike the sciences, however, it is not possible or desirable to reduce the discretionary and humanistic systems of criminal justice to a single truth. Multiple models are helpful because “multiple versions of what is going on, existing side by side, may legitimately account in different ways for

various aspects of the system’s operation.” For thirty-five years

now, the major models have been Packer’s due process and crime

control models.

Models serve multiple purposes. They provide a guide to

judge the actual or positive operation of the criminal justice sys-

tem. Packer’s crime control model suggested that most cases end

in guilty pleas or prosecutorial withdrawals whereas his due process model suggested that the cases that go to trial and are appealed were the most influential. Models can also provide a

normative guide to what values ought to influence the criminal

law. Packer was somewhat reticent in this regard, but it is clear

that his crime control model was based on societal interests in security and order while his due process model was based on the

primacy of the rights of the individual in relation to the state.

Models of the criminal process can also describe the ideologies

and discourses which surround criminal justice. The most suc-

cessful models have become terms of art so that people in public

discourse now debate and advocate the crime control and due

process values that Packer identified.5 At a discursive level,

Packer’s models have become sef-filfilling prophecies.

The new models presented in this paper are based on differ-

ent conceptions of victims’ rights. Like Packer’s crime control

and due process models, they aspire to offer positive descriptions

of the operation of the criminal justice system, normative state-

ments about values that should guide criminal justice, and de-

scriptions of the discourses which surround criminal justice.

Models based on victims’ rights can thus describe phenomena

such as the new political case which pits the accused against crime victims or minority and other groups associated with crime victims, or restorative justice practices which bring crime victims and

their supporters together with offenders and their supporters.


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