Components of the American Criminal Justice System
By: Shasta Walton (Columbia Southern University)
Components of the American Criminal Justice System:
The three main components of the criminal justice system include the police, the courts, and corrections. Each part of the system has a unique role to play and all work together to ensure the rights of the accused while also protecting society as a whole and understanding crime in America.
The purpose of the Police is to enforce the laws of the land. They are tasked with investigating crimes and arresting suspects. During events, protests and other large gatherings they help control the crowds. They can even provide emergency services like first aid and CPR. Police officers adhere to a suspect's rights by following the fourth amendment and the reading Miranda rights.
The purpose of the Criminal Courts is to determine the guilt or innocence of the suspect arrested by the police through due process. The courts protect defendants' rights while also providing the victim with information about potential pleas, trials, and sentencing. If the suspect is found guilty of a crime the judge sentences him/her to make restitution. The court is responsible for keeping the justice system in check.
The purpose of Corrections is to provide custody for the convicted via jail, prison, probation, and parole. The job of correctional officers is to provide rehab, help reform, and ultimately prepare convicts for integration back into society. This component of the justice system is responsible for taking care of the convicted's most basic needs during incarceration along with their psychological needs.
The individual rights perspective is solely focused on the accused's freedoms during their journey through the criminal justice system. Public order advocates, on the other hand, are willing to deny an individual their rights if they believe that person(s) is a threat to society. The question we have to ask ourselves as students of criminal justice was asked of us by Sanda Day O'Conner who said: "At what point does the cost of civil liberties from legislation designed to prevent terrorism [and crime] outweigh the added security that legislation provides?". (Schmalleger, 2016)
I think a great example of public order would be the Patriot Act. While we all have a right to privacy, this act gives government agencies the right to intercept information without our knowledge. The idea here is that while we all have a right to privacy certain rights may be lost if a suspect is deemed a threat to national security. This act alone opens up a huge can of worms for individual rights advocates. How does the government decide whom to target? What information do they see, listen in on, or take? Who holds these agencies accountable? Should suspects have the right to know they are under surveillance?
I believe it is possible to balance these two views leading to crime control through due process, but I do not think we are there yet.
Schmalleger, F. (2016) Criminal justice: a brief introduction Hoboken, NJ: Pearson
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