The criminal justice system can be broke down into four different parts which include: police, courts, corrections and the juvenile justice system. All of these components contribute their own special aspects to upholding the law, preventing crime and promoting justice for victims as well as rehabilitation for offenders of all ages.
Police officers are on the front line of the criminal justice system. The first uniformed American police force was founded in New York in 1845, when the city decided to hire police officers to enforce laws by foot patrol at night because crimes occurred most often at night. The basic foundation of police remains the same today, to enforce laws and protect the victims. Most criminals enter the criminal justice system by encountering police.
The court system holds trials for those accused of crimes. According to the United States judicial system, all suspects remain innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. The court upholds the Constitution's Bill of Rights to ensure that suspects do not have their civil rights violated during the process of determining guilt or innocence. A suspect in any crime must appear in front of a judge for arraignment. The judge decides if he should be let out of jail on bail or stay incarcerated until the time of his trial. If the judge or jury determines that the suspect is guilty of the crimes he is accused of, the judge or jury decides what punishment or sentencing the suspect will receive.
The corrections system handles criminals who have either been found guilty by the court or are awaiting trial. Corrections includes state prisons, city or county jails, halfway houses and pre-release centers. State prisons are used when a criminal is sentenced to over one year of incarceration, while county and city jails house those awaiting trial or who were sentenced to less than one year's incarceration. Halfway houses and pre-release centers are utilized when an offender has served most of her time in prison and is soon to be released back into the community. The main goal of corrections is to rehabilitate offenders so they can live productive lives in society.
Juvenile Justice System
The juvenile justice system is reserved for youth offenders under the age of 18, though each state has its own specific rules as to what crimes can be considered for minors to be tried as adults. For example, in some states a child of 15 who commits murder is placed in the general court system instead of the juvenile system. The juvenile justice system strives to rehabilitate youthful offenders so they can live successful lives as adults. Most juvenile offenders have their records wiped clean once they turn 18, which means that any crime they committed as minors cannot be held against them when they are adults.
- City of Newburgh, NY: Newburgh Police - History
- "American System Of Criminal Justice"; George F. Cole and Christopher E. Smith; 2007
- courthouse image by Michael Shake from Fotolia.com