Criminal Justice System
Jesse W Ratliff Jr.
Criminal Justice System
Criminal justice is a vital system in the American society. The three-fold components of the criminal justice system are law enforcement, courts, and corrections. The process of criminal justice is dependent upon the three-fold structure of the American government and society relies on the relationships between government structure and criminal justice for its safety and peaceful existence.
Law enforcement is the component of the criminal justice system which is bound to control crime and protect society. Law enforcement agencies are also responsible for the investigation of crimes reported and apprehension of criminals. According to Brumbaugh (1991), if actus reus (the act of committing a crime) and mens rea (the knowledge of committing a crime) are determined by law enforcement, the agency can present its evidence to the prosecutor (of jurisdiction, depending on severity of crime) whom will determine exactly which charges to bring against the accused.
The court system is the component of the criminal justice system which levies evidence presented by law enforcement against the argument of the accused person’s defense. It is the responsibility of the court to evaluate each case and determine guilt or innocence. It is also the court’s responsibility to determine sentencing, or punishment for the guilty. The courts also have the authority to grant probation.
The corrections component is the punishment phase of the criminal justice system. The corrections roles in the system are to punish the offender and try to deter others from violating laws; protect society by keeping criminals isolated from the social population outside; and to rehabilitate the offenders and provide a means to assist the offender in making choices for a lifestyle other than criminal activity.
The American government consists of three branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. These branches are similar in both federal and state level governments (Schmalleger, 2011). The legislative branch is responsible for passing laws which define criminal activity, setting allowed sentencing parameters for violation of the laws, and for appropriating funds for correctional facilities. The executive branch of government is burdened to either approve or veto the laws passed by legislators. The executive branch is ultimately responsible for enforcing the laws. The judiciary branch is sworn to interpret the laws, hold those found guilty of criminal activity accountable through sentencing, and granting probation at discretion.
The criminal justice system is reliant upon each branch of government to hold to their respective responsibilities in order to operate smoothly. The law enforcement agencies rely on the government branches to write, pass, and interpret laws so that the officers will have knowledge of what constitutes a crime and at what severity. The court system depends on the judiciary branch of government to interpret the laws, so that its judgments will be in line with the precedent of interpretations. Corrections facilities and officers are dependent on the legislative branch for operation funding, any new laws which may affect them. The branches of government rely on the criminal justice system as well. Through crime-reporting programs such as the UCR (FBI.gov, 2011), the government can write new laws, adjust existing laws, or make adjustments to sentencing limits and funding for law enforcement and corrections facilities to improve the battle against criminal activity.
The criminal justice system and its processes work hand in hand with the three branches of government to maintain a peaceful society. Each branch of government and each component of the criminal justice system have delegated responsibilities which strive to protect society, punish offenders, and minimize criminal activity as much as possible.
Brumbaugh, J. M. (1991). Assault, Rape, Bigamy, and Related Offenses; Mens Rea and Actus Reus (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Foundation Press.
FBI.gov. (2011). Uniform Crime Report. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/preliminary-annual-ucr-jan-jun-2011
Schmalleger, F. (2011). Criminal Justice Today (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.