American Criminal Justice Systems and Functions

Criminal justice is the system of legislation, practices and institutions used by the federal, state and local governments to maintain social order by controlling crime and punishing those who violate the set laws with criminal penalties. In the past, the society had their own ways in which they controlled behavior of individuals and groups so that social order would be achieved. Most societies were controlled by norms, beliefs and values which ensured every individual or group confirmed to the societal set values. The indigenous societies sanctioned the members who did not conform to the societal values and norms.

Type of sanction differed from society to society. In some societies, those who violated societal values by engaging in criminal and deviant behavior, for instance, rape, the individual in most societies was perceived as bad omen and the sanction included communication from society or burning the person into ashes. The sanctions encouraged conformity in the society (Cole, 1999). In the modern times, norms still control behavior in some societies by immigration and intercultural interactions have limited the behavior control through norms.

America in particular is inhabited by people from different nationalities and cultures and therefore becomes the ideal control tool for crime. American Criminal Justice systems present a uniform system that control behavior of individuals regardless of race, religion, culture or ethnic group and hence assist in maintaining social order in the American society. The Criminal justice policy in the United States has been guided by the 1967 president’s commission on law enforcement and administration of Justice which issued initial report” the challenge of crime in a free society.
” The commission advocated a “systems” approach to criminal justice. The President’s commission defined criminal justice system as the means for society to “enforce the standards of conduct necessary to protect individuals and the community” (Cochranc, Melville and Marsh, 2004; Feinman, 1994) In America, the law enforcement agencies include police prosecutors, courts, defense attorney and corrections which are concerned with arrest, charging adjudication and punishment of those found guilty hence maintaining social order.
In the ancient time, especially in the Middle Ages, common forms of punishments included exile, payment to victim in case of violent crimes, lack of payment attracted harsh penalties like corporal punishment in form of mutilation, flogging and sometimes execution. The present criminal justice systems try to ensure fairness and justice. Past data indicate that the society in US did not respect police as law enforcers until 1920. s when the police adopted new technology and placed emphasis on community policing following urban unrest.
Introduction of comp stat in 1990s, in the police departments has assisted the police to track criminals and the criminal justice system hold police responsible for dealing with crime problems. The interaction between the police and the community through community policing has assisted in tracking criminals. Criminal law in America involves persecution of an individual by the government for committing an act that has been classified as a crime. Most crimes in the United States are established by local state and federal government.
In a criminal case, the state through a prosecutor initiates the law suit and the offender jailed authorized to pay a fine or both. In American Justice System, crime may be classified as felony or misdemeanor. Felony includes serious offences like rape and murder which attract one or more year’s imprisonment. Misdemeanors include such crimes like petty theft which attract less than a year imprisonment as a way of correction. However, before any act is considered crime, it has to be established by statute or common law (Walker, 1993).
Scholars have contributed a lot in the American Criminal justice system. Scholars through providing courses in criminology and psychology assist in explaining why some individuals engage in criminal behavior and classify different types of crimes like organized crime, white-color crime and juvenile crime. Sociologists have put forward classical conflict and positivist theories that explain why crime occurs and give remedies on how to curb the crimes and control further c criminal cases in the society. In America, crime is defined, classified, graded prohibited and punishable by the state.
Criminal law in America is distinguished from all other kinds of law because it carries it the moral condemnation of all society. All crimes are an injury against the society because the society as a whole through its legislatures has made of collective judgment that certain behaviors are harmful to the societal interests’ (Walker, 1993) In the recent past, there have been occurrences of violent crimes which have promoted the government to revise and classify c criminal acts. American legislature has classified the crimes in different categories and they attract different punishments.
Treason, sedition and espionage are crimes that are committed against the state. The crimes indicate non-patriotism of the offenders and the government controls such crimes for the protection of natural security. Most offenders who are found guilty of the offence receive heavy punishment, for instance, corporal punishment which may include execution depending on the intensity of the offence. Murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, assault and battery are crimes that are committed against persons. These crimes too fall under felony and the state ensures there is societal order and uniformity.
The state punishes the offenders with the objective of protecting the persons against violence. Burglary, arson and home invasion are classified as crimes against habitation with the aim of protecting the safety and security of one’s home. The crimes too are considered felony and must be discouraged to ensure harmony in the society (Cole, 1999; Parker, 2006; Cochranc, Melville and Marsh 2004). Theft, larceny, robbery, vandalism, forgery, extortion, fraud and embezzlement are classified as crimes against property and are controlled to protect private property. Protection of property ensures there is harmony and order in the society.
Disorderly conduct vagrancy, incitement too riot, motor vehicle offences and alcohol and drugs are classified as crimes against public order and are controlled to protect public peace, order and safety. Resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, bribery, escape and contempt of court are classified as crimes against administration of justice by legislature and are controlled to preserve honesty and efficiency of public administration. Prostitution, sodomy, obscenity, incest, indecent exposure, gambling alcohol and drugs are classified as crimes against public morals and they area controlled to ensure tradition morality is maintained.
This will ensure that the society is morally upright. Bestiality and animal abuse are crimes against nature and the crime is regulated to maintain public health. Pollution, fishing and hunting, smoking and toxic waste dumping in America are crimes against environment and the state regulate them to preserve public health and natural environment. All crimes in US are “owned’ by the state which does prosecution in its own name to maintain societal order and harmony. Police are the first grouped the offender encounter first in criminal justice system (Walker, 1993; Cole, 1999). The police do investigation and arrest the offender.
After the arrest the criminal is taken to court where justice is administered through court ruling. A prosecutor who acts on behalf of state then makes accusation of the individual against the state in criminals’ proceedings. The offender through his/her attorney can justify his innocence before a judge or panel of judges or jury. In America, plea bargaining is allowed where the accused is given reduced punishment when he pleads guilty. In some cases, the justice system in America like any other justice system is prone to bias discrimination which is a threat to objective decision.
After the curt ruling the offender is turned to correctional authorities when found guilty (Walker, 1993; Cole, 1999). In America, prisons are meant to reform criminals hence viewed as the best correctional authority. In America, the offenders may be required some set amount of fine to be set free or in conjunction with imprisonment. In the recent past, probation has become common where the individual mobility is limited together with opportunity to commit a crime while in prison; the prisoners are equipped with various manual skills that will assist then to live a productive life after prison.
Also, there are other prisons where the prisoners are given religious ethics to assist them reform positively. Death penalty in America is rarely administered as many activists have argued that it violates the human rights of the criminals. American court system is based on English statutes. In the court, four groups are involved in criminal case proceeding. These include the offender, prosecutor, judge or panel or judges or jury and the attorney. American legislature is responsible for enacting statutes, for example criminal law which govern conduct of individuals, groups or organization.
American court system is governed by rules of procedure. The criminal cases in the court require special contribution safeguards for the accused. In a criminal case, the party that brings a case is called the prosecutors and the person sued is called defendant. The American legal system allow defendant to be represented by a lawyer who should protect the interests of the person. If one cannot afford a lawyer, the state provides a lawyer. A jury in American court system listens to the evidence and determines the outcome based on substantive law as instructed by a judge.
The judge in American court system acts as a reference by enforcing the rules and explaining the applicable law. Criminal court system in America is on top of the thirteen individual state judicial systems. The American constitution contains very little about criminal law. Criminal law is the collection of rules that identifies behavior that is condemned by the government with the aim of protecting the health and safety of American citizens and the state punishments with violation of the set rules (Feinman 1994; Parker, 2006). American criminal justice system is sometimes viewed to be unfair.
Some cases of unfairness are genuine especially when there is discrimination based on race, religion and ethnic group. However, some cases of unfairness are based on misconception or due to conflict of law criminal. Most criminal defendants are not incarcerated for their crimes, not because the state lack resources to finance imprisonment, but because their offences are not insufficiently serious to warn imprisonment. Most crimes are directly related to lack of education, homelessness, mental illness, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, lack of proper parenting as opposed to evil motive.
Therefore many judges, defense attorney and police officers are aware of the cause unless they are new in the career. However, American criminal justice advocate for constitution follow-up (Cole, 1999; Cochranc, Melville and Marsh, 2004). Judges in criminal cases act universally in a conservative manner. This means that most judges will not risk political fall out or destruction of their professional career for the sake of safeguarding individual defendant’s rights. Conservative ruling usually involves following constitution and state statute. It may also be based on public policy over settled constitutional and statutory law (Walker, 1993).
In the American criminal justice system, it has been noted that 90% of criminals plead guilty hence trials are rare. Prosecutors in the criminal justice system represent the state and not individuals together with the judges. But judges represent the state in a different capacity from the prosecutor. Defense attorney represent the defendant rights. Jury is known to represent the people hence prosecutors prefer trial –by judge while defense attorney prefer trial by – jury (Cole, 1999; Parker, 2006) In conclusion, American criminal justice system is controlled by the American constitution and differs in the various states.
The system is mainly meant to maintain order in society. References Cochrane, J. , Melville, G. , & Marsh, I. (2004). Criminal Justice: An Introduction to Philosophies, Theories and Practice. London: Routledge. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=108764949 Cole, D. (1999). Discrimination and Denial: Systemic Racism in Ontario’s Legal and Criminal Justice System, 1892-1961. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 41(3), 428. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5001287719 Feinman, C. (1994). Women in the Criminal Justice System (3rd ed.
). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=15255576 Parker, M. (2006). Asphalt Justice: A Critique of the Criminal Justice System in America. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37(3), 479+. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5016038470 Walker, S. (1993). Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990. New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved November 29, 2007, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=97471694

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