Pros & Cons of the Criminal Justice System

By Lane Cummings ; Updated June 16, 2017
Prisoner in handcuffs in courtroom

According to the website, "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." The website goes on to explain how the criminal justice system is made up of several subdivisions including the police, custodial institutions, corrections facilities, and trial and appellate courts. Pros and cons abound the criminal justice system, and two people may view the same aspect differently, depending on what side they're on.

Presumption of Innocence

Unlike countries like China, in America if you are accused of a crime you are innocent until proven guilty. This is an important benefit of the criminal justice system as it places the burden of proof where it should be, on the accusers. While some may argue that if you're facing a criminal trial due to an accusation of a crime, someone present, be it the victims, prosecuting attorney or public, must think that you're guilty, the presumption of innocence is a pivotal benefit of the criminal justice system. According to Legal-dictionary, this presumption "...keeps judges and juries focused on the ultimate issue at hand in a criminal case: whether the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the alleged acts."

Self Incrimination

Another benefit of the criminal justice system is the fifth amendment which protects the accused from saying anything or being forced to answer questions which essentially might get him into deeper trouble. According to the fifth amendment of the constitution, "The right against self-incrimination forbids the government from compelling any person to give testimonial evidence that would likely incriminate him during a subsequent criminal case" states The amendment further states that any information gathered from the accused which violate this right are not allowed to be admitted during the criminal court proceedings. The fifth amendment essentially protects the accused from having to take witness against himself. This amendment keeps the burden upon the prosecutor to find witnesses who will do exactly that.

Right of Attorney

The fact that everyone accused of a crime has a right to an attorney is a definite pro of the criminal justice system. If the accused cannot afford an attorney the court will appoint one to him, often referred to as a public defender. However, this pro can sometimes turn into a con when you consider the fact that wealthier people accused of crimes can usually afford more expensive attorneys who have more experience, graduated from more prestigious law schools and who have been mentored by elite legal professionals. Some say the fact that the court doesn't appoint both the defendant and the plaintiff a public defender gives the rich a sometimes unfair advantage.

Plea Bargaining

According to the website, "A plea bargain is a deal offered by a prosecutor as an incentive for a defendant to plead guilty." The website further explains that this system prevents every single trial from going to court and thus overcrowding the court system to the point where it simply can't function. Plea-bargaining is riddled with pros and cons. On the one hand, the prosecutor gets a guaranteed conviction. On the other hand the accused gets a lighter sentence or charge. And of course, the court system is relieved from possible clogging.

About the Author

Lane Cummings is originally from New York City. She attended the High School of Performing Arts in dance before receiving her Bachelor of Arts in literature and her Master of Arts in Russian literature at the University of Chicago. She has lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she lectured and studied Russian. She began writing professionally in 2004 for the "St. Petersburg Times."