What is the focus of criminal justice? Is it to punish criminals? Protect the public? Protect an individual’s freedom and civil rights? Or is it possibly a combination? The focus of criminal justice has changed throughout history to accommodate notions of fairness and changing societal perspectives on crime and justice. Historical events and trends also have had a
large impact on the evolution of criminal justice. For example, internet attacks on individuals and organizations have forced the criminal justice system to reevaluate the boundaries of crime. Current trends and historical events have not only influenced the evolution of criminal justice, but have helped to shape the criminal justice system as it exists today, just as future trends and events will continue to reshape the criminal justice system.
To prepare for this Discussion:
Review the Course Introduction, located in the left-hand navigation bar. Keep this overview in mind as you work through each week of the course.
Review Chapter 1 in your course text, Criminal Justice: A Brief Introduction, and pay attention to the processes and systems of the contemporary justice system.
Review the excerpt from Introduction to Criminal Justice and note the historical development of the criminal justice system. Pay attention to the trends and potential changes that have impacted the current system.
Select a historical event, trend, or change that has had an impact on the current concepts and processes of contemporary criminal justice in relation to individual freedoms and public safety.
Think about how the event you selected has impacted the current concepts and processes of contemporary criminal justice and consider the importance of its impact.
With these thoughts in mind:
Post by Day 4 a brief description of the historical event or trend you selected. Then explain how that event or trend impacted contemporary criminal justice related to individual freedom or public safety. Be specific and use examples to illustrate your points. Finally, post your thoughts on what personal freedoms you might be willing to sacrifice in order to protect personal or public safety and explain why. Be specific.
Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.
Read a selection of your colleagues’ postings.
Respond by Day 6 to at least one of your colleagues’ postings in one or more of the following ways:
• Ask a probing question.
• Share an insight from having read your colleague’s posting.
• Offer and support an opinion.
• Validate an idea with your own experience.
• Make a suggestion.
• Expand on your colleague’s posting.
Welcome to Contemporary Criminal Justice Systems. This introductory course is designed to provide a broad overview of criminal justice and the criminal justice system. While the purpose and role of criminal justice and the criminal justice system are to strike a balance between crime control and individual rights, there actually are a number of perspectives on criminal justice, each of which views the purpose and role differently. You examine these perspectives in this course, as well as concepts important to an understanding of criminal justice; the processes and agencies involved as criminal cases make their way through the criminal justice system; and the components of the criminal justice system itself: policing or law enforcement, courts or adjudication, and corrections or rehabilitation. The course also provides a brief look at crime and criminal law as they relate to the criminal justice system, as well as an overview of the juvenile justice system. A theme throughout the course is the impact of diversity and ethics on all aspects of the criminal system, which you explore and weigh in on.
The criminal justice system is complex. It is complex because it involves a continuous interaction of federal, state, and local governments. It is complex because justice can be achieved without using criminal law, by using civil laws, or through other, less-formal social processes. It is complex because the criminal justice agencies were intentionally designed to be independent and to work together at the same time. The criminal justice system is complex because it has a variety of objectives, including crime control, due process, efficiency, and equal treatment. At any given time, it can be difficult to discern which objectives are being pursued by a particular legal procedure or by a criminal justice agency and which are not. In addition, as noted above, there are a variety of perspectives on what the criminal justice system should and should not do. And, finally, there is some disagreement as to whether or not the criminal justice system is a true system at all in terms of how it operates.
Each society determines how it wishes to achieve justice and the ways in which it wants to use criminal law. In the United States, the growth of criminal law stems, in great part, from the growth in the size of the economy and the increasing role of government in all aspects of society. Many new types of crime have emerged (while some other behavior once illegal has been legalized), and criminal justice agencies continue to increase in numbers, variety, and size. Criminal law addresses many issues, from highway traffic enforcement to the prevention of international drug trafficking. It covers delinquency by juveniles and the abuse of the elderly. Petty larceny and billion-dollar stock frauds are social problems, too, and are addressed by the criminal justice system.
While this growth adds to the complexity of the criminal justice system, contemporary systems of criminal justice can be flexible and resolve disputes simply and informally. Clearly, criminal behavior is frequently not reported to the police. The police do not always arrest, even when they have a clear legal basis for doing so. Charges against arrestees often are dismissed by prosecutors. Judges suspend sentences. Prisons play a role in only a fraction of sentences issued. Violations of probation and parole do not automatically result in new sanctions or imprisonment. There are only one or two ways for criminal justice agencies to mobilize criminal law and begin a criminal case. However, in the flow of cases processing through the criminal justice system, there are numerous ways for cases to exit without arrests, without charges, without convictions, and without formal sanctions.
All these factors add to the complexity of contemporary criminal justice systems and to the importance of understanding how and why those systems work the way they do. This course provides you with a window on the world of contemporary criminal justice systems; the entire bachelor’s program provides you with the world. Let your journey begin.
Please read and view (where applicable) the following Learning Resources before you complete this week’s assignments.
Review the Course Introduction (located in the left-hand navigation bar)
Course Text: Schmalleger, F. (2014). Criminal justice: A brief introduction (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.
Chapter 1, “What Is Criminal Justice?”
Book Excerpt: Siegel, L. J. (2010). Introduction to criminal justice (12th ed., pp. 4–8 and 23–36). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Introduction to Criminal Justice (12th ed.) by L. J. Siegel. Copyright 2010 by Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. Reprinted by permission of Wadsworth/Cengage Learning via the Copyright Clearance Center.
Chapter 1, “Crime and Criminal Justice” (pp. 4–8 and 23–36)