What Is It?
The criminal justice system is the set of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on those who violate laws. There is no single criminal justice system in the United States but rather many similar, individual systems. How the criminal justice system works in each area depends on the jurisdiction that is in charge: city, county, state, federal or tribal government or military installation. Different jurisdictions have different laws, agencies, and ways of managing criminal justice processes. A criminal justice system is a set of legal and social institutions for enforcing the criminal law in accordance with a defined set of procedural rules and limitations. In the United States, there are separate federal, state, and military criminal justice systems, and each state has separate systems for adults and juveniles. Criminal justice systems include several major subsystems, composed of one or more public institutions and their staffs: police and other law enforcement agencies; trial and appellate courts; prosecution and public defender offices; probation and parole agencies; custodial institutions ( jails, prisons, reformatories, halfway houses, etc.); and departments of corrections (responsible for some or all probation, parole, and custodial functions). Some jurisdictions also have a sentencing guidelines commission. Other important public and private actors in this system include: defendants; private defense attorneys; bail bondsmen; other private agencies providing assistance, supervision, or treatment of offenders; and victims and groups or officials representing or assisting them (e.g., crime victim compensation boards). In addition, there are numerous administrative agencies whose work includes criminal law enforcement (e.g., driver and vehicle licensing bureaus; agencies dealing with natural resources and taxation). Legislators and other elected officials, although generally lacking any direct role in individual cases, have a major impact on the formulation of criminal laws and criminal justice policy. Such policy is also strongly influenced by the news media and by businesses and public-employee labor organizations, which have a major stake in criminal justice issues. The notion of a "system" suggests something highly rational—carefully planned, coordinated, and regulated. Although a certain amount of rationality does exist, much of the functioning of criminal justice agencies is unplanned, poorly coordinated, and unregulated. No jurisdiction has ever reexamined and reformed all (or even any substantial part) of its system of criminal justice. Existing systems include some components that are very ancient (e.g., jury trials) alongside others that are of quite recent origin (e.g., specialized drug courts). Moreover, each of the institutions and actors listed above has its own set of goals and priorities that sometimes conflict with those of other institutions and actors, or with the supposed goals and priorities of the system as a whole. Furthermore, each of these actors has substantial unregulated discretion in making particular decisions (e.g., the victim's decision to report a crime; police and prosecutorial discretion whether and how to apply the criminal law; judicial discretion in the setting of bail and the imposition of sentence; and correctional discretion as to parole release, parole or probation revocation, prison discipline, etc.). The main Systems are the State and the Federal. The Stare criminal justice systems handle crimes committed within their state boundaries. The Federal criminal justice system handles crimes committed on federal property or in more than one state. System Components
Most criminal justice systems have five components—law enforcement, prosecution, defense attorneys, courts, and corrections, each playing a key role in the criminal justice process. Law Enforcement: Law enforcement officers take reports for crimes that...
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