Special interest groups are formal organizations of either individuals or organizations that share common concerns and attempts to alter public policy by their interests. Common with all interest groups is their desire to influence government policies by lobbying policymakers to act in their favor. Similar to many societies around the world, interest groups in America represents an outgrowth of the community and are common at all levels of the government (Conley, 2018). The special interests groups in America range from small groups such as grass-roots community organizations to large organizations such as trade associations. Over the years, special interest groups have had a significant impact on the establishment of government agendas, directing implementation, defining options as well as influencing decision making. While many special interest groups focus on upholding the rights of inmates, others attempt to focus more on the goals and interests of the criminal justice system, its actors and agencies involved (Marion & Oliver, 2012). Notably, interest groups focusing on criminal justice in America have had a substantial impact on public policy. Their overall success can be partially attributed to the tactics and strategies employed by the lobbyists advocating for these groups.
One of the methods employed by special interest groups to influence policies on criminal justice includes focusing on political intelligence. This tactic is based on the fact that the political system is solely responsible for the creation and development of public policies. More specifically, these groups employ lobbyist who is professional legislative advocates (Marion & Oliver, 2012). Lobbyist directly influences the government by drafting and promoting legislation of the desired policies. Also, they maintain a close association with government officials, lawmakers as well as other influential people. For instance, Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) incorporated political intelligence to push for reforms on the implied consent provision. To achieve this, the lobbyists together with MAAD leaders targeted the governor and the Senate president who were key players in implementing the initial provision (Conley, 2018). The governor and the senate president were the only key government officials responsible for convening a special session to address the implied consent provision.
The special interest groups also employ massive grass root campaigns as a strategy to push for reforms on criminal justice policies. After the Hawaii legislature successfully passed a law against the implied consent provision, MADD resorted to a massive grass root campaign to compel the restoration of the deleted provision by key government officials (Conley, 2018). Through this, they intended to gain attention and support from the wider political establishment in addition to raising public awareness. They also sought to keep the Senate president and the governor in the spotlight while attempting to demonstrate the publics support for the restoration of the deleted provision. Often described as grassroots activities, the campaigns attempt to mobilize the public to act on behalf of the special interest group (Conley, 2018). They include demonstrations, phone calls, letters as well as contacting policy-makers. A key feature in this strategy involves educating the public, other interest groups and government officials on policies concerning criminal justice.
Notably, special interest group also incorporate indirect methods to push for policy reforms in the United States. A common indirect strategy involves influencing the constituents to nominate or elect a policy-maker who supports their desired interests (Conley, 2018). As such, interest groups are often involved in the establishment of political action committees and electioneering as well as organizing demonstrations and strikes. Such methods enable them to induce public opinion in addition to encouraging protests by citizen action groups (Marion & Oliver, 2012). Today, for example, the Congress is more open to public opinion and petitions challenging the implementation deletion of specific policies concerning criminal justice in America.
Conley, B. (2018). How Do Lobbyists Influence Bills in State Legislatures? | Scholars Strategy Network. Scholarsstrategynetwork.org. Retrieved 5 February 2018, from http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/brief/how-do-lobbyists-influence-bills-state-legislatures
Marion, N.E., & Oliver, W.M.(2012). The public policy of crime and criminal justice (2nd ed. ) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
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