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Worker Hazards for Police
At its most basic, criminal justice is simply the model by which a society enforces its laws. Citizens, the government, and the justice system create mandates for behavior, and police are expected to enforce them. Based upon economic pressures and cultural attitudes in any given society, punishment mechanisms can vary wildly. Chicago's greatest cultural strengths are often her greatest weaknesses. Its criminal justice system developed as a result of and in reaction to a machine-style brand of politics that accelerated the metropolis' growth while inspiring secrecy and cronyism. Labor unions ushered in much needed regulation, but they sought to protect their members before addressing other concerns - even moral or public. The Chicago criminal justice system has grown from this soil. Chicago receives a constant stream of attention as a result of its system that developed from the old and the demands of the new. The Police Department is rarely the subject of anything other than public derision, as is the City that so staunchly defends the department. The Court system is looked upon as anachronistic and the prison system, archaic. And behind these institutions are the people affected by it: the school children afraid to walk home because of gang violence, the cop falsely accused, or the shocking number of people who have a police record and find it nearly impossible to make a life for themselves and their children. Since 2006, Chicago has additionally had to confront the added pressure of a severe economic downturn. As jobs become scarcer and competition for resources increases, the criminal justice faces additional strain. How the state responds to this crisis is a test of efficaciousness and leadership, and the ability to adapt to the new circumstances is critical. Failure to do so will have a negative ripple-effect throughout Chicagoland.