Encyclopedia > Criminal justice

  Article Content

Criminal justice

The study of criminal justice traditionally revolves around three main components of the criminal justice system:

Nowadays, it is sometimes argued that psychiatry is also a central part of the criminal justice system.

The pursuit of criminal justice is, like all forms of "justice" or "fairness" or "process", essentially the pursuit of an ideal. Thus this field has many relations to anthropology, economics, history, law, political science, psychology, sociology, and theology. The establishment of criminal justice, as an academic field, is generally accredited to August Vollmer, during the 1920s. By 1950, ~1,000 students were in the field; by 1975, ~100,000 students were in the field; by 1998, ~350,000 students were in the field. A notable center for criminal justice studies is the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.


One question which is presented by the idea of creating justice involves the rights of victims[?] and the rights of accused criminals[?], and how these individual rights are related to one another and to social control. It is generally argued that victim's and defendant's rights are inversely related, and individual rights, as a whole, are likewise viewed as inversely related to social control.

Rights, of course, imply responsibilities or duties, and this in turn requires a great deal of consensus in the community regarding the appropriate definitions for many of these legal terms.


There are several basic theories regarding criminal justice and it's relation to individual rights and social control:

  • Restorative justice assumes that the victim or their heirs or neighbors can be in some way restored to a condition "just as good as" before the criminal incident. Substantially it builds on traditions in common law and tort law that requires all who commit wrong to be penalized. In recent time these penalties that restorative justice advocates have included community service[?], restitution[?], and alternatives to imprisonment[?] that keep the offender active in the community, and and re-socialized him into society. Some suggest that it is a weak way to punish criminal who must be deterrred, these critics are often proponents of
  • Retributive justice or the "eye for an eye" approach. Assuming that the victim or their heirs or neighbors have the right to do to the offender what was done to the victim. These ideas fuel support for capital punishment for murder, amputation for theft (as in some versions of the sharia).
  • Psychiatric imprisonment treats crime nominally as illness, and assumes that it can be treated by psychoanalysis, drugs, and other techniques associated with psychiatry and medicine, but in forcible confinement. It is more commonly associated with crime that does not appear to have animal emotion or human economic motives, nor even any clear benefit to the offender, but has idiosyncratic characteristics that make it hard for society to comprehend, thus hard to trust the individual if released into society.
  • Transformative justice does not assume that there is any reasonable comparison between the lives of victims nor offenders before and after the incident. It discourages such comparisons and measurements, and emphasizes the trust of the society in each member, including trust in the offender not to re-offend, and of the victim (or heirs) not to avenge.

In addition, there are models of criminal justice systems which try to explain how these institutions achieve justice.

  • The Consensus Model argues that the organizations of a criminal justice system do, or should, cooperate.

  • The Conflict Model assumes that the organizations of a criminal justice system do, or should, compete.

The US Criminal Justice system

"There is a criminal justice process through which each offender passes from the police, to the courts, and back unto the streets. The inefficiency, fall-out, and failure of purpose during this process is notorious." -- US National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence

"Three strikes you're out[?]" is claimed to be cruel and unusual punishment[?] by its opponents, who argue that the U.S. system is too dependent on retributive justice, and is failing socially as well as criminally.

A society should not be judged on how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals.....Fyodor Dostoyevsky

See also: criminal law, criminology, law, social justice

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Monaco Grand Prix

... Jackie Stewart[?], (United Kingdom) 1967 - Denny Hulme[?], (New Zealand) 1968 - Graham Hill, (United Kingdom) 1969 - Graham Hill, (United Kingdom) 1970 - Jochen Rindt, ...

This page was created in 29.3 ms