An Overview on the Criminal Justice System in America


A criminal justice system is a set of organizations that are put into place to enforce a legal code and deliver justice to those who have committed crimes.  Unlike most countries, the United States has three components of the criminal justice system: the law enforcement, the courts, and the corrections system. The primary goals of the criminal justice system are the rehabilitation of offenders, preventing other crimes, and moral support for victims.


In America the Criminal Justice System is a network of organizations at the federal,
and state levels with three main components: the law enforcement, the courts, and the corrections system. The ideal result of the system is making offenders pay for, and repent their criminal acts while delivering recompense to the victims.


Criminal Justice System in America


The law enforcement (police or a special agency) are the first to take action when a crime is detected. A report is received from the victim or a witness to the crime. Thereafter an official investigation begins when the information received is verified. Law enforcement officials carry out duties such as arresting suspects, gathering evidence, establishing the motive, and completing police/arrest reports of the investigation.

At the federal level, the Criminal Justice System in America has set up law enforcement bodies to cover particular areas of criminal law. The US Department of Homeland Security is one such example. Homeland Security takes charge of problems such as human trafficking. Another law enforcement body at the federal level is the US Department of justice. The DOJ is made up of agencies including the FBI and takes charge of crimes with nationwide impact such as terrorism.


The second component of the Criminal Justice System in America is the court. The courts carry out the legal process and pass a judgment to the parties in a case. The courts are also organized at federal and state levels. Court processes begin when the law enforcement body submits an official report to the prosecutor.

Next, the prosecutor determines wither the report will prosper into a criminal case. The case advances to arraignment when the prosecutor decides to press charges against the suspected offender. Next the charges filed against the suspected offender are read to him or her. Then the suspect, using the help of a legal counsel enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. The arraignment then progresses into a trial where the suspects (defendant) guilt is determined. If a guilty verdict is determined, the offender is convicted and the court determines the length of the sentence. A sentence is the penalty imposed on the offender after a guilty verdict. The judge follows prescribed guidelines and standards in order to determine the sentence. In America, the practice of capital punishment is determined on a case-by-case basis.


The third component of the criminal justice system in America is the corrections system. This system is put into place in order to reform and rehabilitate offenders. Those on death row are also held in the corrections system. The corrections system is a network of publicly run and privately operated institutions. The administration along with the personnel and other stakeholders must adhere to lawful standards. The purpose of the system and its programs is to reform and prepare eligible convicts for reentry and reintegration into society as free individuals.

Criminal Justice System in America


Currently, America holds only 5% of the world’s population yet over 25% of the world’s prison population.

The nation has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Looking at the numbers, America has a problem with addressing crime by locking people up. There are three main reasons the criminal justice system faces reform.

According to the statistics, there are 2.3 million Americans incarcerated today and 5 million released on parole or probation.

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These numbers mean one out of every 31 adults will end up being incarcerated. The American criminal justice system was not designed to take in these many offenders. Neither can the American tax dollars support proper funding of the system. The federal government can’t afford the cost of overcrowded prisons.

There are a variety of reasons behind overcrowding in the prison system. One of the main reasons include unfair drug charges. The majority of those incarcerated are nonviolent offenders. America’s war on drugs led to stricter drug laws and thus increased the number of incarcerated drug offenders. Statistics show the number of incarcerated drug offenders increased 1200% between 1980 and 2018.

Due to ineffective rehabilitation efforts, ex-offenders end up back in prison or stay in prison for extremely long sentences.

The second issue with the criminal justice system in America is the mandatory minimum sentencing laws. These laws are designed as a basic rule of thumb for charges and are held in many states today. The laws have a preset certain number of years for each crime the offender would serve if found guilty in court. Many prosecutors use these laws to secure a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Racism in the Criminal Justice System


Several critics say there laws take away the power of the judge to account for particular circumstances of each case or the character of the defendant. This leads to strict black and white reasoning and thus harsh sentences.

The third and biggest issue with the criminal justice system in America is racism. According to Pew Research Center, in 2016 the racial demographics were as follows:


– African Americans represented 12% of the US population, but 33% of the prison population

– Caucasians accounted for 64% of the population, but only 30% of those in prison

– Hispanics held 16% of the nation’s population, but over 23% of prison inmates


There is a huge lingering racism problem in the criminal justice system at the state and federal level. With racial profiling, harsh drug laws and over criminalization, mass incarceration rates, and institutionalized discrimination to blame for these numbers, the problem also relies on socio-economic status. The American system doesn’t favor lower class people, which in turn affects many people of color.

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The Criminal Justice system in America requires much needed reform. The system is set up with three components to enforce a legal code and deliver justice to those who have committed crimes. However, the system is full of problems including racism, out dated laws, and the world’s highest incarceration rates.


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