Traditional Criminology Theory


The constitution of the United States is the basis of the American criminal justice system. Because it is over 200 years old, it has been interpreted and amended numerous times, so that the criminal justice system has changed over the years to reflect the beliefs and needs of each succeeding generation.


The criminal justice system in America is an intricate consolidation of three major machineries: law enforcement agencies, the court system and the corrections system. Each section works autonomously while at the same time interdependently as part of the total system function. The usual direction of operation of the system is from law enforcement to the courts systems and finally the corrections system. The criminal justice system forms a critical component of the American society. It costs billions to taxpayers and commissions million of people in its operations. It deals with the lives of millions of individuals who go against laws of the United States and their victims. In some occasions, it deals with issues of life and death.This paper presents a literature overview of the American criminal justice system. It addresses contemporary and traditional criminology issues and views of the successes and failures of the system, the changing roles of the system agencies, the impact of technology as wellas the effect of a declining budget.

Analysis of the Success and Failures of the American Criminal Justice System

Successes of the Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system in the United States has experienced numerous successes in its fight against the criminal world.  Thai success has taken many forms. The first and most apparent success comes in the form of reduced rates of violent crimes. According to various states statistics, the rate of violent crimes has reduced by more than one-third, while in some cities it has reduced by more than two-thirds.  Rates of Property crimes such as burglary, larceny, and auto thefts have also declined. Inroads have also been made possible by the legislation of various laws such as the Organized Crime Control Act, the use of advanced technologies and improved methods of policing by the system.It has also been attributed toan effective and objective court system and correctionsinstitutions that have employed rehabilitative approaches as opposed to punishment as means of addressingcrime.

Additionally, the criminal justice system has incorporated various strategies that have made the system more effective and efficient. This has involved experimentation with previously untested approaches to fighting crime such as inclusion of the community in policing, and involvement of women and minorities into the police force. Increasingly women and minorities have made inroads in the police service. There have also been resoluteendeavorsto betterpolice image and relations with the communities they serve. Public relations efforts towards this end have encompassed the use of crime prevention programs such as neighborhood watch programs and community policing. These programs have encouraged citizens’ involvement in tackling crimeas well as their cooperation with the police. This has resulted in better police-community relations. Law enforcement agencies, especially the police have increased their community presence and made sure rapid response to crime scenes. They have ensured that intimate contacts are maintained with the areas they serve, thereby strengthening ties with the community.

The courts and correction system have also made positive strides in fighting crime. This has mainly been achieved through the search for alternatives to incarceration, such as the probation sentence, restitution, and halfway houses. Other alternatives to incarceration being used include boot camps, home confinement, intensive supervision probation and parole (Roth, 2011). Thesealternativesdeal withthe problems of overcrowding in prisons and rising recidivism rates.The American criminal justice system has also been commended for its efforts and successes at being more equitable and more attuned to the needs of the United States of America twenty-first century citizens.

Failuresof the Criminal Justice System

Despite the successes of the criminal justice system in tackling crime, it also has had its failures. First, the true extent of violent crime in the United States has largely remained unknown. This is so because many crimes remain unreported to any law enforcement agency or anyone other than the victim and the perpetrator. There are many reasons for these statistics. First, some crimes like rape remain unreported for fear of shame, while some crimes remain unreported because organized crime gangs terrify their victims into silence. In other cases, victims of crime do not know how to access law enforcement agencies, and district attorneys and are thus not able to report crimes against them. Consequently, prosecution of the offenders is limited, ipso facto, because prosecutors are not called on to deal with the many offenses never brought to their attention. Such occurrences are failings of a criminal justice system. In addition, district attorneys offices are overworked and understaffed. This makes it challengingfor the prosecutor to prosecute the crimes that end up as complaints in their offices. The police have also been blamed for use of excessive force and misuse of force, and failure to involve better-educated and better-trained police officers.

The functioning of the courts and the correction system has raised some concerns. The first is with regards to the number of people locked up in the United States relative to other developed countries. The nationwide inmate population is more than 3 million people. This translates to an incarceration rate of about 1 in 143 persons while in countries such as Germany, England, Italy and France the incarceration rate is about 1 in 10,000 persons. This raises the question of the efficiency, effectiveness and justice of the American criminal justice system. It raises concerns about the effectiveness of this system to deter crime. The second concern is with regards to the disproportionate impact of incarceration on minorities. Nationwide, more than 40% of the prison population consists of African American inmates. About 10% of African American men in their mid-to-late 20s are behind bars. In some cities, more than 50% of young African American men are under the supervision of criminal justice system. Another failure is with regards to the cost and length of incarcerations. The cost of housing, feeding and caring for the inmate population in the united state is over $40 billion dollar per year. This incarceration cost is more than it costs to educate a child; it thus raises concerns about the viability of long incarceration sentences for crimes that could be punished in other more efficient and effective ways.

Additionally, there have been wide complaints concerning the conviction of innocent citizens, racial bias in convictions and overrepresentation of minorities in the prisons. Many convicted citizens have been victims of false prosecution. Other failures of the courts system and correction systems are in the federal sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences policies that are considered unjust; and the dehumanizing experience of prison.The failure to recognize the importance of rehabilitation as a punishment goal is another failure of the system.

Roles of Police, Courts, and Corrections Systems

The United States criminal justice system is a section of government that was established to meet three comprehensive needs of the community. The first is the necessity to address crime, and thus maintaining social order and safety of citizens. The society wants to have a sense of security in their homes and in public places. The second is the need for law-abiding citizens to feel that lawbreakers are getting what they deserve. The society often feels prejudicially treated when punishment is seen as unfitting a crime. The third need is the need to ensure that lawbreakers are treated justly and fairly. In America society, this means according to the rights stated in the constitution. Therefore, the criminal justice system serves the needs society has for both justice and safety, and these form the basis of the roles that they are supposed to play.

Roles of the Police

There are carious law enforcement agencies at the local levels and federal state level. Each is tasked with the duty of upholding law within its jurisdiction. These policing outfits maintain law and order by enforcing the law. They prevent the commission of crimes, investigate reported crimes and provide social services in an attempt to maintain tranquility and peace. Law enforcing agencies are the first to respond to a criminal act, either in response to a victim or citizen report or after observing the act. Therefore, law enforcement officers are usually referred to as “gatekeepers” of the criminal justice system. The police use their discretion to make a decision on what step to be taken in each case. In minor and less serious cases, a suspect is normally warned and let free. However, in serious cases, an offender is likely to be arrested and booked into jail.

Law enforcement officer’s jobs do not end with the arrest of an offender. They are tasked with talking to the victim and witnesses and responsible for gathering evidence that would be used in court proceedings. They work closely with the prosecutor to prepare a case for trial.

Roles of the Courts

The United States operates a dual system of federal and state courts that function independently. State courts systems include courts of limited jurisdiction and courts of general jurisdiction. Courts of limited jurisdiction hear misdemeanor and less serious cases, while courts of general jurisdiction hear more serious felony cases and misdemeanor cases. These courts, together with the U.S district courts are the most common associated with popular conceptions of the criminal justice system. Appellate courts do not hear original cases; they simply review cases and render decision regarding lower courts rulings.Judges play a critical role in courts. His role as a neutral party is to interpret the law and determine matters of fact in criminal cases. The judge presides over courtroom proceedings and imposes sentences on those found to be guilty. The United States state and federal courts work under the adversarial system. Under this system, the prosecutor and defense counsel argue opposing cases. The prosecutor prepares and presents the states case that proves the guilt of a criminal defendant beyond reasonable doubt. The defense counsel on the other hand is to ensure that the defendant constitutional rights are protected. He also assists in building a case that will ensure that the defendant is not wrongfully convicted.

It should be noted that the criminal justice system has distinct courts for juvenile offenders. However, the courtroom work group and processes are similar. Additionally, the juvenile courts are driven by the goal of serving the best interests of the child. This is as opposed to adult courts where the courts take a more neutral stand towards the parties involved.

Role of the Corrections Institutions

The United States correction system is composed of several agencies, including probation, jails, prisons, and parole. Each is designed to carry out the punishments that the courts have imposed on convicted defendants. Probation is a front-end community-based sanction.This is where a judge has seen it fit that an offender deserves a chance to be placed on probation in the community where he is subject to certain conditions of release. This is as opposed to being sentenced to jail or prison. Jail is an institutional sanction operated at local levels. They accommodate defendants in criminal cases who are awaiting trial as well as sentenced offenders awaiting transportation to prison. Prisons operate at the state or federal level. They can be public or private. They are responsible for the care and custody of felony offenders sentenced for more than 1 year.Besides incarceration, they offer mental health, recreation and educational services designed to rehabilitate criminals. With the war on drugs and tough on crime laws, prison populations have skyrocketed, creating a problem for the management and leadership of the various criminal justice agencies.Parole is a back-end sanction designed to protect the public and ease offenders’ transition back into the community. Convicted offenders are dischargedearly groundedon their good conduct in prison and the observedlikelihood of their recidivating in the community.

Although juvenile services are delivered through other distinct entities, the correction mechanisms are alike. Different terms are employed to denote the rehabilitative approach employed with juvenile offenders. Jails are referred to as “detention centers,” prisons are called “youth development centers” while parole id called “aftercare.”

The Impact New Technology in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

The revolution in the ICT sector has had tremendous and remarkable impact on the criminal justice system. Computer and information technology has become a critical part of policing. Technology has enhanced the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to identify and apprehend criminals. It has made the police, the court system and the correction institutions more effective in identifying and tracking known and, or wanted offenders. Television, videotapes and computer simulations have been employed in investigations andcourtrooms to present and test evidence, as well as to reduce delays and costs.

Technology has created a standard for crime control and prevention that the United States criminal justice system has had a difficult accomplishing. The onset of computer-assisted dispatching, the internet, cellular phone, and global positioning system have changed the approaches employed to crime detection and how criminals are supervised. Courts rely on technological systems such as computerized dockets and public access to computer records. In correction institutions, the reliance on keys for prison cell doors has diminished, and replaced by remote control. Probation and parole officers no longer have to spend hours driving around keeping an eye on offenders’ location. They track them with GPS units and electronic monitoring.

It is of note that as the society increasingly uses technology for various activities, the criminal justice system struggles to handle the increased workloads, and educational requirements necessitated by technological advancements. Other challenges faced by the criminal justice system in the face of technological advancements are the difficulty in finding individuals who understand and can use technology available to address crime. Additionally, technology use attracts great costs. In the face of budget cuts, Criminal justice systems do not always have the resources to facilitate their use. Technology has also resulted in the creations of newer forms of crimes. In an age of information technology, people and corporates are sharing personal and financial information through the internet. This has created an avenue for fraud as well as the onset of crimes such as cyberterrorism, identity theft, and cyberbullying.

Budgetary Influences to Criminal Justice in a Declining Economy

Funding has formed one of the cost crucial and sensitive issues in the criminal justice system. With no funds, law enforcement agencies cannot be in a position to be proactive in fighting crime, and probation no longer becomes a tool for treating and rehabilitating offenders. Additionally, correction institutions would not address a majority of the challenges they face. Funding defines the programs that would be undertaken and those that would be stopped. The budgets of the United States criminal justice are predominantly financed by public funds, and are dependent on political and social concerns. Thus, the system’s budget is never guaranteed, especially when competing against other perceived more essential public services.

According toRoth(2011) the financial cost of operating criminal justice agencies at all levels of government increases annually by 4 percent. Of the more than 4 million law enforcement, court and correctional employees, a vast majority works in law enforcement, and most of these staff members are on the payroll of local government agencies. However, while courts employ fewer staff than the police and correction, they account for 25 percent of the expenditure. The demands on staff in criminal justice system are high.In the face of a declining economy and competing national needs, the criminal justice system has been faced with a series of budget cuts. This has resulted in a decrease in the quality of service offered to the public by these agencies.The courts have continually been crowded with case backlogs; the correction system has failed to achieve its mission of rehabilitation, while the police agencies have failed to provide apt security to the public. In the face of such challenges, it has become necessary for more effective approaches to criminal justice to ensure that even with budget cuts services are being provided. This has necessitated the adoption of newer strategies to overcome this challenge. These strategies have included the adoption of advanced technologies, as well as recruitment of better-educated and better-trained officers. It has also necessitated the training and grooming of the criminal justice system personnel for leadership and management positions. These individuals will be expected to rely more on intellect and acumen to solve the various challenges facing the criminal justice system.


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