The criminal justice system is the means by which criminals are either convicted of a crime or released. The criminal justice system is composed of the police, courts and correctional facilities. There have been many critiques of the criminal justice system, including perceived biases toward or against different groups of people, as well as an inability to execute a fair trial in today's media-driven society. Despite critiques, however, many find the criminal justice system a useful method of protecting everyday citizens.
The criminal justice system promotes safety by ensuring that police officers monitor neighborhoods and watch for violent or illegal activities, such as gang activities, drug use or street fights. Once police officers identify activities that may be harmful to other citizens, they can make an arrest and remove the offender from the streets. The criminal justice system also enables citizens to make sure their community is safe by enabling them to contact the police in an emergency.
Offenders who are accused of a crime can argue their innocence in a court of law. The accused are guaranteed a fair and speedy trial, the outcome of which can be determined by their peers. Without this aspect of the court system in place, defendants might not have the opportunity to present evidence that proves their innocence or even offer their side of the story. The criminal justice system also empowers citizens to take part in this aspect of the system through the jury selection process.
While the function of correctional facilities is a hotly debated topic in the United States, many believe that they serve to rehabilitate criminals and prepare them to re-enter society as changed individuals. While in prison, offenders may take advantage of therapy, college courses, job training or other methods of preparing individuals to redirect their lives when they return to their communities.