The Concept of Special Interest Group and Methods used in influencing Criminal Justice Public Policy

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According to Webster Dictionary, a special interest group is an individual or group of individuals looking to effect or bring impact to the law-making process to make it more defined. They locate a particular thematic area and help in setting the objectives and trajectory that the identified topic will follow while seeking to influence a given course in the system of justice. Marion and Oliver (2012) characterize a special interest group as having a persuasive impact, numbers and resources to lobby, skills and tactics, focus in their mission, a well-organized movement that is capable of rallying collaborations, educating the public and organize a well grassroots support in what they intend to lobby for. The groups that have placed more influence in policies surrounding justice are police, bar, correctional associations and the judicial organization. (Fairchild, 1981)

The Special Interest Group has mastered the skill of exerting their influence in a topic of interest. They achieve this by using a variety of strategies both direct and indirect. Some of the tactics they are using include;

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The most common method used is lobbying. Lobbying is the process done by experts who try to exert influence in a given legislation course through contact with officials in the government, for example, holding private meetings, providing consultancy services on a given draft of laws, providing testimonies in agency meetings and informing legislators on the suggested bills at their tables. As noted by Alan and Shaila in an article published in New York Times on December 2018, the people who have been effective in lobbying for the criminal justice bill are composed of people who have been behind the bars and know the prison topography very well. Their stories narrated in videos, written letters, pitches in public rallies and invitation by senate or white house, has helped the senators and the president in making a decision on the bill before them.

Another direct method is making public the analysis of voting trends of a particular lawmaker. The group keeps a record of a voting trend of a particular lawmaker and when the time comes to influence the legislator, the group publicize his or her records. How he/she has failed to support the group in a certain decision they needed to be passed. Since this may taint the image of lawmaker during elections, he/she is forced to create a good impression to the voters by supporting the group.

One of the indirect methods used by the groups is stimulating the public in applying pressure to the governing authority to change a particular interest. Creating political ads, sending email in large masses and social media publishing is tactically used to influence the government. Financing such campaigns that will keep the image of the public good against the government is used by lobby groups. Trolling the lawmakers in the social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and other internet postings have put them on check and to avoid the catastrophic consequences of going against the public, they are forced to succumb to the pressure inserted. The public has been effective in pushing for reforms in the criminal justice system.

Providing support in campaigns is also a strategy used by the group to achieve what they want to do. Fielding a candidate, pumping in financial and material resources towards the campaigns and sometimes assigning some of their personnel to assist in the campaign train to see that a particular candidate secures a position. The aim is to have someone in the legislation house they can always count on to represent their interest. The same lawmaker will be crucial in tabling bills from the group, voting as per the wish of the group or supply the group with essentials will help them be guaranteed of their amendment going through.

Comparison and Contrast of Public Opinion and Special Interest Group in Influencing Criminal Justice Policy

The role of public opinion towards the policy of criminal justice is expressed through elections, public gatherings and deeds that manipulate the decision of officials in the government. On the other hand, special interest groups achieve this through lobbying, publicizing the voting trend of legislators, supporting the campaigns of legislators and stimulating the public to act. (Interest Groups, 2014)

The two compare in a number of ways

First, both harnesses the power of the public to create influence. As public opinion is demonstrated in the ballot, special interest group spearhead some of the campaigns that has an impact of the voting trends of the citizens. In this way they both work to achieve a similar goal of placing their interests in the way towards the creation and/or change of given policies that touch on justice in criminal offences. This combined effort in elections of lawmakers places them to a unique spectrum as compared to other methods because their actions guarantee that someone is there to air out opinions on their behalf. The number of people they support during campaigns and consequently vote for is a representation of what they would wish to see done. If particular candidates show the leniency towards what they are advocating for, they definitely will secure position to make their decision count and the contrary is true.

Another comparison can be seen in their ability of being able to draw huge masses and crowds. The group has the ability to ignite the masses to act and the public opinion is usually supported by huge numbers. With the population that they ca draw, achieving what they wish is always within their reach. Lawmakers and decision makers are always moved my masses and huge numbers as it can act on their favor or against them. In this regard, what the masses demand is giving an upper hand when making decisions such as the ones affecting the reforms of the criminal justice. As noted by Peter in Incarceration Nation, 2016, the impact of public opinion and the special interest group is crucial in shaping the political landscape and reforms because politicians do listen and special interests want politicians who can listen to them.

The contrast existing between the two revolves on the composition of the group or their masses. Special interest group relies heavily on the experts to drive their agenda. Individuals who are persuasive, great debaters and orators, knowledgeable individuals who can be execute their mandate with surgical precision and with utmost professionalism. Public opinion on the other hand is relies only on the impact that they have when it comes to numbers. Their influence is mostly on how many people will support or reject the reforms without necessarily having an expert understanding of matters in question.

Another contrast can be observed in terms of the strategies that the two parties have when it comes to creating an influence. The public has only their numbers as tool towards exerting pressure which can be converted to ballot or mass action. The special interest group on the other hand has several channels and tools they can use to create the ripple effect in the justice system. They have the public at their disposal, they have politicians who they can marionette and they have their expertise that they can put in good use to favor their side.

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The Concept of Special Interest Group and Methods used in influencing Criminal Justice Public Policy. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
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