Justice "System"

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A Changing System

Looking into criminal justice procedure, many administrations are at work. Starting with the police, to the courts and concluding in corrections. Though all these sectors have different tasks, their combined focus is processing the law. Regardless what the process is called criminal justice will continue to serve with discretion, conviction, and correction. When first presented with the question whether criminal justice is a system, non-system, and network I leaned toward a network. Throughout our discussions, lectures, and readings I felt the process presented itself as a network. Intertwined divisions working for a common goal. Further into my research and help from Webster, I decided that the criminal justice process is a system that is why it is called the criminal justice system and has been so, for many years. This system includes many networks that serve a common purpose, are dependent upon one another, and keep each other in check.

Many may try to disagree as Alvine Cohn does in his introduction to Improving Management in Criminal Justice. He stated that "…no true system actually exists…(it) is a collection of disparate, fragmented services and programs, with many interrelationships, but (has) no…direction, philosophy, or mission"(Cohn, 7-8). This could be the farthest from the truth considering the system is always changing to better the process. This philosophy or mission that he speaks of does not have to be written on paper to exist. Though the absence of a clearly explained and comprehendible goal may result in conflict (Cohn, 9), this is inevitable when arguing two different sides. Regardless of what professionals and critics call it, it is "…(a) social control mechanism which…society calls the justice system"(Jones, 83). This system may differ from other systems, but it still includes the main characteristics of that which a system is defined.

A system defined in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is " …an organization forming a network especially for distributing something or serving a common purpose…" Using this definition we can include all arguments for the progression of criminal justice as a network since a system comprises many networks. This system has interrelated departments that look to each other to fulfill common goals of prevention and justice. Along with this common goal are common practices. The most commonly practiced is discretion. It is used in every department and is unique to this system. Others include attempted prevention through deterrence and mandatory sentencing, and bargaining. These departments involve everyone throughout the sequence of events in the criminal justice system including lawyers, judges, police, criminals, victims, and the society in which this occurs. Every action and repercussion is seen and felt by all involved in a particular case. This is why all of these players in the game of law depend on the actions and results of one another.

This dependency arises from numerous situations and circumstances. The police depend on convictions from the court to see results for their job. Each sector must rely on the outcome of trial cases to proceed. Plea-bargaining is a great example. Three or more parties are involved, the prosecutor and defense attorneys must present the best and most reasonable deal, from their perspective, and the defendant must agree to the terms. In some cases a judge can be a contributing factor. Society is the most dependent and most critical, always keeping the department on its toes. Dependency in this case does have its benefits. It provides the system with a check and balance system.

Considering again Cohn's arguments that the criminal justice process should not be defined as a system he makes some strong points, that have strong counter points. In short he states this process is a continuum through which each offender passes, from the police, to the courts, into prison and then back onto the streets. He...
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