Criminal justice and its various definitions

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Criminal Justice can be defined in a number of ways. For this paper, Criminal Justice is defined as: the institutions of governments combined with the system of practices directed at deterring and migrating crime, upholding social control, and sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts. It is important to note that while some individuals see the criminal justice system simply as "imprisonment" there are many other various functions that derive from the criminal justice system. For example, rehabilitation is largely sweeping the country at this time. Whether the offender has had a life long history of penalization or has committed his or her first crime, the criminal justice system actually puts a lot of time and money into the rehabilitation process. The reason for these efforts is to help offenders turn their lives around and become normal upstanding citizens of this country.

When looking at criminal justice from an academic standpoint, people commonly misconstrue the field with that of criminology. Criminal Justice is different from the field of criminology. Criminology is the study of crime as a social phenomenon. Criminologists study closely the causes of crime, and criminal behavior along with other aspects of crime and use real world scenarios to map their data and draw conclusions. The modern criminal justice system has evolved since ancient times, with new forms of punishment, added rights for offenders and victims, and policing reforms. These developments have reflected changing customs, political ideals, and economic conditions.

Penalties for crimes have changed since common law and some penalties remained remarkably similar. For example, during the middle ages, exile was a common form of punishment. In ancient times, payment to the victim or the victim's family was known as wergild. Wergild was another common punishment that was used when a person committed a violent crime. However, much like our system today, many people could not afford to buy their way out of punishment. When this situation occurred, harsh penalties were handed down to the perpetrator which included various forms of corporal punishment. For example, some common types of punishment, included mutilation, branding, and flogging, as well as execution. One of the first commonly known prisons during the fourteenth century was "Le Stinche". This prison was built in Italy and was used for centuries. However in Italy, incarceration was not widely used until about the 19th century.

Leading and learning the way to creating better forms of corrections was William Penn. During the seventeenth century correctional reform in the United States was first started by Penn. There was even a time when Pennsylvania's criminal code was revised and forbade the use of torture and other forms of cruel punishment. After the criminal code was revised, jails and prisons took the place of corporal punishment. After Penn's death in 1718, the new reforms that were made had been reverted back to the original code. Then at the end of the eighteenth century a group of Quakers were able to revive the code in Pennsylvania, which led to a drop in Pennsylvania's crime rate. There were a number of people who helped lead the reforms during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some of the more common persons were Patrick Colquhoun and Henry Fielding. 

Also found during the eighteenth century was the first modern police force. This force was universally known as the London Metropolitan Police. The London Metropolitan Police was established in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel. Mr. Peel's goal was to endorse the protective role of police and use that as a deterrent to disorder and urban crime. Stemming from the London Metro Police Department arose several similar police forces in Boston, Massachusetts in 1838. Also in the United States some police departments were set up in New York City in 1844.However, despite Robert Peel's vision, police were not respected by the community because corruption was widespread.

Criminal Justice was never seen as an academic type discipline until the beginning of the 1920's. The beginning of criminal justice as a study began with police chief August Vollmer, who established a program for criminal justice at the University of California Berkeley in 1916.After Vollmer passed away his work was carried on by a former student named O.W. Wilson. Wilson was the leader in a number of efforts toward professionalizing policing and reducing corruption. Similar programs were set up in the United States at Indiana University, San Jose State University, University of Washington, and Michigan State University. These programs took on little notoriety and as of 1950 there were estimated less than 1,000 criminal justice students. Up until the 1960's the main focus of criminal justice in the United States remained on policing. As crime rates climbed throughout the sixties and seventies a number of new laws and studies caused the governments focus to research new methods on how to control all the crime.

Towards the end of the 1960's after the establishment of the LEAA (Law Enforcement Assistance Administration) along with policy changes, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 was created. The focus of criminologists was now turned on the social aspects of crime due to grants provided by the LEAA. By the beginning of the 1970's there were 729 academic programs in criminal justice and criminology throughout the United States largely in part because of the Law Enforcement Education Program. By 1975 Criminal Justice students numbered over 100,000. As time passed scholars of criminal justice began to introduce a more comprehensive view of the criminal justice programs and instituted a number of courses that related to the field such as criminology, psychology, and sociology. Now criminal justice studies combine the technical and practical policing skills with a study of social deviance as a whole.

To maintain order in a society the criminal justice system has incorporated laws to the public that everyone must follow. A law can be defined as a system of rules that are enforced through a number of institutions. The reason these laws are created is to provide a set of rules that are governed in order to keep a society from chaos. When looking in retrospect, the oldest known law is the "Code of Hammurabi", which was established in ancient Mesopotamia around 1760 B.C. Hammurabi's code was easy to follow simply because mostly all of the punishments ended in a death sentence.

Many organizations created laws throughout time, and these laws are passed on from generation to generation. In some parts of our world laws could be created by religion or philosophers. During the middle ages around the dark times laws were simply made and abolished by the king. In Rome during the ancient times, a Senate had to vote on all laws before any laws could take effect. This form of voting is similar to our government in today's society.

The laws created in the world today often contradict and coexist with other forms of control on a society. For example some social controls could be religion, professional rules, ethics, culture, and customs of a society. Within the realm of modern day codified laws, there exists two forms of law that the courts concern themselves with. The first law is Civil Law. These laws consist of rules and regulations that create grievances between individual citizens. For example, you loan a friend a thousand dollars and he never pays you back even when he promised with a verbal contract or even with an actual contract in writing. The second type of law is Criminal Law. This type of law is aimed towards actions which are deemed dangerous or harmful to society as a whole, and the law that is broken is done so against the state instead of an individual. For example, speeding is a criminal law which is committed against the state. The purpose of these laws is to establish a specific definition for what is considered a crime and along with that crime there must be a punishment for it. No law is valid without a definition of the crime and the punishment for it. The main concern on the subject of criminal justice is with the enforcement of criminal law.

The criminal justice system is made up of three main parts, which are law enforcement, adjudication, and corrections. The law enforcement portion is headed by the police. The adjudication process is done by the courts, and the corrections are handled by the prisons, jail, probation, parole, etc. The criminal justice system has the three agencies work together under the rule of law to maintain a governed society.

When an offender breaks the law, his or her first contact with the criminal justice system is with the police. The law enforcement investigates any suspected wrong doings and depending on the circumstances an arrest is usually made. Police can obtain "warrants" which empower them to use force and other types of legal coercion to affect social and public order. This typically occurs with police departments of a state that are authorized to use police power within that state or defined legal territorial area of responsibility. Police are mainly concerned with keeping the peace and enforcing the law. In 1908 the Federal Bureau of Investigation was created.

The FBI started out as a unit which could investigate and enforce federal laws. The FBI was able to do this by serving as an investigative and law enforcement agency in the United States. However the Federal Bureau of Investigation only patrol a small amount of the overall policing activity, and thus only get involved in big cases. Overall policing includes an array of activities but as stated earlier the primary concern is with preserving order and the stipulation of services.

Whenever there is a dispute about a case, the courts serve as the main authority in handling the case and ultimately judgments are made. When talking about the criminal justice system there are a number of important people involved in each court setting. These important people serve as workers for the courtroom and consist of both unprofessional and professional persons. The three main people involved in a courtroom scenario are the prosecutor, defense attorney, and the judge. The judge also referred to as magistrate depending on what part of the country you are located; is responsible for an unbiased decision on the specific case. It is also important to note that the judge is the administrator and has supreme knowledge about the law. The defense attorney is responsible for pleading the case of the defendant where as the prosecutor is a lawyer who is responsible for proving the guilt of the defendant and the validity of the plaintiff's claim.

In the United States, guilt and innocence are determined through the adversarial system. The adversarial system is a system in which two parties offer their own explanation of the events that lead to the lawsuit. The parties explain their own versions of the claim to the judge or jury or even sometimes a panel of judges. The case is usually decided based on whichever side has the most compelling arguments for their case along with facts that are used to show that a law was indeed broken.

After a sentence is handed down in the criminal justice system, the proceedings continue on to what is commonly referred to as community corrections or just simply corrections. This is the time when a person will serve out the sentence they were given. This can happen in a variety of ways. For example one of the most notorious forms of corrections is incarceration. When a person commits a felony against the state they more often than not are sent to prison. Prison is a form of corrections. Likewise, probation is a form of corrections. Both probation and parole are administered to persons who are released early from prison or serve the entire sentence they were given. More people are on probation than any other kind of corrections in the United States. Another form of corrections is community service. When you commit a crime against the state almost always community service will be part of the sentence. The last two forms of corrections are alcohol and drug classes which can test you for drugs or alcohol and electronic monitoring. Remember that these examples are all forms of corrections and it is possible to get just one or all of these as part of your sentence.

Most people hopefully will not have to witness the side of the criminal justice system where they themselves are being prosecuted for breaking the law. However it is important to know how the criminal justice system works. The system to some may seem fair or unjust. The penalties may seem too severe or not harsh enough. The criminal justice system can be seen an imperfect system that exists in an imperfect world and aims to hand down the most perfect verdict.