The Criminal Justice Wedding Cake
(photo taken from How to Do Just About Everything at
Layer one consists of high profile cases, usually involving a celebrity, someone well known, or rich. This could also include widely publicized cases which are seen on the television or in other mass media.
Layer two includes cases where a serious felony has been committed. Rapes, murders, and other serious actions fall under this category. People who commit crimes in this layer are usually experienced offenders or if the techniques used to commit the crime indicate the suspect is a pro.
Layer three contains felonies done by first-time or young offenders. The crimes in the layer can be similar to crimes in layer two except for certain circumstance which make the crime in less need of urgent attention. For example, a fight between rival gangs will not be viewed as important or as serious as a man committing aggravated assault and battery against a random family or person. Layer three crimes have a higher chance of being dismissed or resulting in a plea bargain or reduction in charges.
Layer four is the bottom and largest layer. Here we find the million of misdemeanors and smaller crimes which are handled by the lower criminal courts. These cases are dealt with in an assembly line fashion and typically result in a small fine for the accused.
South Dakota has prevalent with examples of the wedding cake theory.
An example of the first layer is The Crazy Horse Robber in Rapid City, South Dakota. 18 year old Arlen Lee Hatten also known as the Crazy Horse Robber is receiving plenty of media attention after he pulled a fire arm on a 73 year old ticket booth worker at the Crazy Horse Memorial in Rapid City. This case has received a good deal of media attention in South Dakota partly from the violence of robbery and the age differences between the robber and his victim. (Journal Staff, 2009)
According to The Rapid City Journal "Irvin Salway, 36, was sentenced to six months in prison for striking and beating a woman with a knife at the La Creek North Housing unit on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in February. Salway pleaded guilty to the charge." This highly brutal case can be an example from the second layer of the cake where Salway committed a very serious crime and criminal justice officials were adamant about giving him the full extent of the law. (Journal Staff, 2009)
Terry Charmaseon of Sioux Falls, South Dakotais up for simple assault charges for a scuffle he and his former girlfriend got into. Charmaseon's case will likely be dismissed as he was a first time offender and was later assaulted from an altercation involving another man and the same girlfriend. This case represents the third layer of wedding cake because Charmaseon was a young, first time offender and the case wasn't in need of immediate attention. (Walker, 2009)
Daniel Contreras was recently in the news in South Dakota for coming back into the U.S. illegally after being deported from the States. Contreras can face up to two years in U.S. prisons if he sentenced. His case is a good example of the fourth layer of cake which includes small misdemeanor case that will not gain much public attention and will probably be dismissed. (Journal Staff, 2009)
The South Dakota Department of Corrections is responsible for overseeing correction in the state of South Dakota. The mission statement of this agency is to “protect the citizens of South Dakota by providing safe and secure facilities for juvenile and adult offenders committed to our custody by the courts, to provide effective community supervision to offenders upon their release and to utilize evidence‐based practices to maximize opportunities for rehabilitation.”This mission statement would seem to lead to the rehabilitation perspective.The rehabilitation perspective deals more with crimes being an expression of frustration and anger created by society, and focus more on treatment than punishment. This can be seen in the South Dakota Department of Corrections through the many programs such as Inmate Work PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT, Rehabilitation (STAR) Academy, and the West Farm program near Sioux Falls, that have been presented to help the prisoners through the process of rehabilitation. The South Dakota Department of Public Safety and Judiciary is responsible for providing safety,protection and support to society. The South Dakota Department of Public Safety and Judiciary mission statement is “to keep South Dakota a safe place in which to live, work, visit and raise a family.” This department follows a due process perspective. The Due Process perspective emphasizes equal treatment, whether it be in someone’s constitutional rights, or the sentences of a person. Advocate helping through connections and integration with the community. Actssuch as coordinating and communicating Homeland security plans and procedures to state,local, tribal, and federal governments, and ensuring that citizens receive fair and unprejudiced trials by judges, follow the beliefs of the Due Process Perspective. (2009)
According to online federal statistics, (Perry, 2006), the expenditures for the justice system in South Dakota are as follows:
Breakdown of Expenditures
Total justice system expenditure for 2006: $333,652
Police: $ 131,923 %39.5
Judicial and legal: $ 61,155 %18.3
Corrections: $ 140,574 %42.1
Possible causes for most costly system: Corrections uses the most amount of funds, totaling over forty two percent of the total justice funds. This may be attributed to the amount of facilities and resources needed to house criminals, whether it be jails or corrections centers, and the staff needed to maintain the criminals and the facilities being used. Law enforcement and Courts push criminals through the system and into corrections, where the criminal will likely spend most of their time when being handled by the justice system.
Possible ways to reduce spending: The justice system could review its yearly budget and separate the necessities from the commodities. First ensure that the needs of the criminals in corrections are taken care of. Then they can decide which commodaties are not necessary and remove them from the budget. Also, the courts can review their standard operating procudures and ensure that the system they are using is adequate and as efficient as possible.
(2009). Department of Correction. Retrieved September 4, 2009, from Department of correction state of South Dakota Web site: http://doc.sd.gov/
Journal Staff, (2009, September, 07). Crazy Horse robbery suspect charged in federal court.
Rapid City Journal, Retrieved September 07, 2009, from
Perry, S. W. (2006). Justice expenditure and employment statistical extracts 2006, NCJ 224394. Criminal Justice Expenditure and Employment Extracts Program (CJEE). Retrieved from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/eande.htm#selected
Walker, Jon (2009, September, 05). Wounded Man Faces Charge. Argus Leader, Retrieved
September 07, 2009, from