Chapter 1: Criminal Justice Today


Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, students should:

1. Describe the two most common models that show how society determines which acts are criminal.

2. Define crime.

3. Outline the three levels of law enforcement.

4. List the essential elements of the corrections system.

5. Explain the difference between the formal and informal criminal justice processes.

6. Define ethics and describe the role that they play in discretionary decision making.

7. Contrast the crime control and due process models.

8. List the major issues in criminal justice today.

Lesson Plan

Correlated to PowerPoints

I. What is Crime?

Learning Objective 1: Describe the two most common models that show how society determines which acts are criminal.

Learning Objective 2: Define crime.

A. Determining Criminal Behavior.

1. Consensus Model

a. Assumes that as people gather together to form a society, its members naturally come to a basic agreement regarding shared norms and values

b. Assumes, to a certain extent, that a diverse group of people can have similar morals

2. Conflict Model

c. Assumes that different segments of society, separated by social class, income, age, and race, inevitably have different value systems and shared norms, and are engaged in a constant struggle with one another for control of society

d. What is deemed criminal activity is determined by whichever group happens to be holding power at any given time

B. An Integrated Definition of Crime

1. Considering both the consensus and conflict model constructs a definition

of crime in that it is any action or activity that includes the following:

a. Is punishable under criminal law, as determined by the majority of society, or in some cases, a powerful minority

b. Is considered an offense against society as a whole and is prosecuted by public officials

c. Is punishable by statutorily defined sanctions that bring about a loss of freedom

2. Differences Between Crime and Deviance

d. Deviance is behavior that is considered to go against the norms established by society

e. Deviance is a subjective concept

f. Deviant acts become crimes only when a majority is willing to accept that those acts should be punished

g. Not all crimes are considered particularly deviant

h. Criminal law reflects acts that a society agrees are so unacceptable that steps must be taken to prevent them from occurring

II. The Purpose of the Criminal Justice System

i. Interlocking network of law enforcement, courts and correctional institutions

A. Maintaining Justice

1. Main goal is to provide justice to all members of society

2. All individuals are equal before the law ( fairness

B. Protecting Society

1. Four goals of the modern criminal justice system

a. To protect society from potential future crimes of the most dangerous or “risky” offenders.

b. To determine when an offense has been committed and provide the appropriate punishment for that offense.

c. To rehabilitate those offenders who have been punished so that it is safe to return them to the community.

d. To support crime victims and, to the extent possible, return them to their pre-crime status.

Media Tool

“Is there racial bias in the criminal justice system?”


· A short clip about racial bias in the criminal justice system.

· Discussion: Discuss what fairness means and how race and discrimination undermine fairness. Why are some people saying that the criminal justice system serves to protect the powerful rather than everyone in society?

III. The Structure of the Criminal Justice System

Learning Objective 3: Outline the three levels of law enforcement.

Learning Objective 4: List the essential elements of the corrections system.

Learning Objective 5: Explain the difference between the formal and informal criminal justice processes.

A. The Importance of Federalism

a. Federalism implies that government powers are shared by the national (federal) government and the states

b. Division of powers allows states to create their own police power, enacting whatever laws are necessary

1. Law Enforcement

a. Local Law Enforcement

1. Duties are split between counties and municipalities

2. Chief law enforcement officer of the county is the sheriff

i. Elected post

ii. 2 or 4-year term

3. Bulk of local police officers are employed by municipalities

i. Investigate crimes

ii. Attempt to deter crime

iii. Apprehend criminals

iv. Participate in trial proceedings

v. Charged with “keeping the peace”

b. State Law Enforcement

1. Hawaii is the only state without a state law enforcement agency

2. Two general types of state law enforcement agencies

i. State police

ii. Highway patrols

3. Other state law enforcers include fire marshals and fish, game, and watercraft wardens

c. Federal Law Enforcement

1. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

2. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

3. U.S. Secret Service

4. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)

2. The Courts

a. Dual court system with two independent judicial systems

1. Federal level

2. State level

b. 52 different court systems

1. One for each of the 50 states

i. Trial courts at local and state levels

ii. Intermediate courts of appeals

iii. State supreme courts

2. One federal court system

i. District courts

ii. Circuit courts of appeals

iii. The United States Supreme Court

3. One court for the District of Columbia system

c. Criminal court work groups are charged with responsibility of determining innocence or guilt of criminal suspects

3. Corrections

a. Offenders may be placed on probation, incarcerated, or transferred to community-based corrections facilities once they have been delegated to the corrections system

1. Probation is the most common correctional treatment allowing the offender to return to the community under supervision

2. Incarceration may include jails or prisons

i. Jails house offenders convicted of minor crimes with relatively short sentences

ii. Prisons house offenders convicted of more serious crimes with longer sentences

3. Community-based corrections include halfway houses, residential centers, and work-release centers

4. The most frequent type of release from jail or prison is parole

B. The Criminal Justice Process

1. Debate about whether or not system functions as a “continuum,” smoothly processing cases

2. The criminal justice process functions as a continuing balance between its formal and informal nature

a. The formal criminal justice process “involves a series of routinized operations whose success is gauged by their tendency to pass the case along to a successful conclusion”

b. In the informal criminal justice process, each step is the result of decisions that must be made by those who work in the system

c. Herbert Packer’s Criminal Justice Process

1. Formal Criminal Justice System

IV. Discretion and Ethics

Learning Objective 6: Define ethics and describe the role that they play in discretionary decision making.

1. Using authority to choose between and among alternative courses of action

2. Informal criminal justice process relies on discretion to alleviate pressures

A. Informal Decision Making

1. Law enforcement discretion

2. Pitfalls of discretion

B. Ethics and Justice

1. Ethics and the Law

b. The line between ethics and justice is often difficult to discern, as ethical standards are usually not written into criminal statutes.

2. Ethics and Critical Thinking

c. The principle of critical thinking involves developing analytical skills and reasoning to address many ethical challenges inherent in the criminal justice system.

V. Criminal Justice Today

Learning Objective 7: Contrast the crime control and due process models.

Learning Objective 8: List the major issues in criminal justice today.

1. Crime Control Model

a. The most important function of the criminal justice system is to punish and repress criminal conduct

b. The criminal justice system should function quickly and efficiently, as an assembly-line

2. Due Process Model

a. Focus on protecting the rights of the accused through legal constraints on police, courts, and corrections

b. Strives to make it more difficult to prove guilt

c. Fairness, not efficiency, is the goal of the due process model

A. Crime and Law Enforcement: The Bottom Line

1. Smarter Policing

a. Proactive policing that promotes more rigorous enforcement of

minor offenses

b. Hot-spot policing that focuses on high-crime rate areas rather than

spreading resources evenly throughout a metropolitan area

2. Identifying Criminals

a. DNA profiling allows law enforcement agents to identify a suspect

b. Increased use of biometrics

3. Continuing Challenges for Law Enforcement.

a. The Scourge of Street Gangs

i. There are an estimated 33,000 gangs in the United States

with approximately 1.4 million members

ii. Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of

violent crimes in most cities, and for up to 90 percent in the worst-hit areas.

b. Gun Sales and Gun Control

i. 30,000 people killed by gunfire in the United States each


ii. In 2008 the United States Supreme Court ruled the U.S.

Constitution protects an “individual’s right to bear arms”

c. The Illegal Drug Problem

i. When people speak of the “drug problem,” or the “war on

drugs,” or “drug abuse,” they are referring specifically to illegal psychoactive drugs, which alter the consciousness or perception of the user.

ii. Drug abuse often leads to further criminal behavior in

adolescents, as we will see when we look at the juvenile justice system

iii. Growing market for illegal drugs causes significant damage

both in the United States and in countries such as Mexico that supply America with it.

d. Drug Use in the United States

i. National Survey on Drug Use and Health

ii. About 9.2% or 23.9 million Americans use drugs regularly

iii. In comparison, about 136 million people drink alcohol regularly and 70 million smoke tobacco

Media Tool

“Obama Says It’s Important That Marijuana Legalization Move Forward”

· A short clip by MSNBC about drug use, legalization, and the possible consequences.


B. Homeland Security and Individual Rights

1. Counterterrorism and Civil Liberties

a. Patriot Act

i. Was passed 6 weeks after the 9/11terrorist attacks and reauthorized in 2009

ii. An expansion of the definition of what it means to “engage in terrorist activity.

iii. Greater leeway for law enforcement agents to track Internet use, access private financial records, and wiretap those suspected of terrorist activity.

iv. A reduction in the amount of evidence that law enforcement agents need to gather before taking a terrorist suspect into custody.

2. Homeland Security and Civil Liberties

a. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “freedom of speech.”

b. The Fourth Amendment protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

c. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a trial by jury to a person accused of a crime.

3. Domestic Terrorism

a. Within the US with little or no help from international terrorists

b. Terrorists are often alienated individuals

c. Often involves outrage about American military excursions against Muslims in the Middle East

Class Discussion/Activity

Discuss how the Tsarnaev brothers fit the profile of domestic terrorists.


C. The Emergence of Victims’ Rights

1. Advocacy for Victims’ Rights

a. Began in the 1970’s

b. Previously victims had no rights

i. Victims were forced to deal with physical, emotional, and financial consequences of crime by themselves

2. Legislative Efforts

a. All 50 states now provide legal rights to victims

b. 2004 Crime Victims’ Rights Act

c. Greater presence in criminal proceedings

d. Critics:

i. Legislative efforts have failed

ii. Victim statements have led to bias in the system

What If Scenario

What if you were a victim of a house burglary and the police caught the burglar? How would you like to participate in the criminal proceedings? What do you think would be the pros and cons of your participation?

D. Inmate Population Trends

a. For the first time in four decades, incarceration rates are not rising.

b. About 2.2 million people are in prison

c. About 4.8 million people are under community supervision

1. Changing Incarceration Policies

a. Recent reversal of “tough on crime” policies

b. Increasing downsizing efforts

i. Early release

ii. Diversion

iii. Programs to reduce recidivism

2. Declining Use of the Death Penalty

a. April 2013 – 3,108 people on death row, down from 3,653 in 2000

b. 2013 – only 80 death sentences, down from 315 in 1996

c. Six states have abolished the death penalty in the past six years

Media Tool

“California’s death penalty violates U.S. Constitution”

· A news clip by the Los Angeles Times about a recent ruling about California’s death penalty

· Discussion: Discuss the reason for the ruling; that is, why has the death penalty been ruled unconstitutional? What could be the impact of this ruling on the future of the death penalty in California and the US?

3. Incarceration and Race

a. African Americans make up only 13 percent of the general

population in the United Sates, but the number of black men in state and federal prisons is significantly larger than the number of white men

b. Hispanic inmates’ ratio has increased dramatically over the past


E. The Social Media Revolution

1. Social Media and Law Enforcement

a. Social media offers opportunities for law enforcement

b. Law enforcement presence in social media

c. Social media as a crime fighting tool

2. The dark side of social media

a. Today’s criminal has also benefited from technological advances, including the Internet

b. Greater opportunity for crime

c. Anonymity – bullying, harassment, stalking has increased

Media Tool

“Family urges for end to bullying after teen commits suicide”

· A news clip by ABC News about the death of a 13 year-old girl who was being bullied

· Discussion: Discuss what the reasons and consequences of bullying are and what can be done to prevent it.

Lecture Notes

In Chapter 1, students are introduced to the concept of crime. Crime is defined as an act that violates criminal law and is punishable by criminal sanctions. In modern times, crime is considered an offense against society, and alleged criminals are prosecuted by the state rather than by victims. Society determines how behaviors are criminalized in several differing ways. The consensus model asserts that citizens share a perception of morality and will outlaw those behaviors that violate it. The conflict model argues that citizens do not share similar moral values, and that the dominant group in society will impose its morality through law. Encourage students to discuss the process of criminalizing behavior. What crimes have emerged in their lifetimes? Which model do they think best describes how those behaviors were criminalized? Have them consider a number of criminal offenses, ranging from stalking (criminalized in 1990) to the victimless crime of illegally downloading music and software (criminalized in the last decade).

Also in Chapter 1, students are introduced to the purpose and goals of the criminal justice system. Students are given the specific goals of our criminal justice system: 1) protecting society from potential crimes of dangerous offenders, 2) determining when an offense has been committed and the appropriate punishment, 3) the rehabilitation of offenders, and 4) supporting crime victims. These specific goals are viewed in the overall goal of maintaining justice.

Additionally, students are introduced to the criminal justice system and its various components. Students learn about the concept of federalism, the three levels of law enforcement, the dual court system, and the correctional system. This is a good time to introduce students to the criminal justice system operating in your state. How are all three branches of the criminal justice system represented locally? Get to know your students by discussing what branch of the criminal justice system they are most fascinated by. If your class is primarily interested in law enforcement as a career field, you might use this information to shape your lesson plans for the semester, likewise if they are interested in the courts or corrections.

Students also learn about the positive and negative trends of the criminal justice system as a whole in today’s world. Students are presented with the tools utilized by law enforcement agencies that have had positive and negative effects on crime rates. For example, the concepts of “proactive policing” and “hot spot policing” strategies are discussed. The role of technology in the criminal justice system is also presented, introducing students to technological advancements such as biometrics, including MORIS, facial recognition technology, hand geometry, and, of course, fingerprint technology. Later, at the end of the chapter, students are also presented with the technological advancements of the internet and social media. For example, the Casey Anthony trial is discussed, pointing out that the tool of Twitter was successfully utilized by the 9th Judicial District Court of Florida to provide the public with important trial information. The negative aspects of the criminal justice system today are also pointed out. Specifically, the challenges of gang violence, gun violence, and the illegal drug trade are identified as three of the major challenges facing law enforcement today. This would be a good time to have students identify how the changes in law enforcement strategies and technologies have affected the major crime challenges in their specific geographic locale.

Chapter 1 familiarizes students with the values and ethics of the criminal justice system. Our system of justice is often described as having two processes: one formal and one informal. The formal criminal justice process involves prescribed procedures such as booking, setting bail, and the like. For every step in the formal process, though, someone has discretion, and such discretion leads to an informal process. For example, even when prosecutors believe that a suspect is guilty, they have the discretion not to prosecute. The use of discretion is guided by two conflicting models of the criminal justice system, the due process model and the crime control model. The due process model focuses on protecting individual rights of the criminal suspect as they move through the justice process. The crime control model disagrees, arguing that the primary function of the process is to protect society from offenders by punishing criminal behavior whenever it is detected. Ask students which vision for the process seems most ideal to them. Should justice be individualized, or should discretion be largely limited to ensure that offenders are treated as uniformly as possible? Which objective is most important, in students’ opinion, protecting individual rights or controlling crime? Push them to think through their answer as if they were being investigated for suspicion of a crime. Would their view change if they were the criminal suspect rather than a potential victim?

Finally, Chapter 1 discusses the role of the criminal justice system in the fight against terrorism. Students are introduced to the Department of Homeland Security and its major tool in the fight against terrorism, the Patriot Act. Students are given the “pros and cons” of some of the specific provisions of the Patriot Act that must be accounted for in Congress’ attempt to balance personal freedoms with personal safety.

Key Terms

Biometrics – methods to identify a person based on his or her unique physical characteristics, such as fingerprints or facial configuration. (p.19)

Capital crime a criminal act that makes the offender eligible to receive the death penalty. (p.25)

Civil liberties the basic rights and freedoms for American citizens guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, particularly in the Bill of Rights. (p. 22)

Conflict model – a criminal justice model in which the content of criminal law is determined by the groups that hold economic, political, and social power in a community. (p. 6)

Consensus model – a criminal justice model in which the majority of citizens share the same values and beliefs. Criminal acts are acts that conflict with these values and beliefs and that are deemed harmful to society. (p. 5)

Crime – an act that violates criminal law and is punishable by criminal sanctions. (p. 5)

Crime control model – a criminal justice model that places primary emphasis on the right

of society to be protected from crime and violent criminals. (p. 17)

Criminal justice system – the interlocking network of law enforcement agencies, courts, and corrections institutions designed to enforce criminal laws and protect society from criminal behavior. (p.8)

Deviance – behavior that is considered to go against the norms established by society. (p. 7)

Discretion – the ability of individuals in the criminal justice system to make operational decisions based on personal judgment instead of formal rules or official information. (p. 15)

Domestic terrorism – acts of terrorism that take place on U.S. soil without direct foreign involvement (p. 22)

Drug – any substance that modifies biological, psychological, or social behavior; in particular, an illegal substance with those properties. (p.20)

Due process model – a criminal justice model that places primacy on the right of the individual to be protected from the power of the government. (p. 17)

Ethics – a system of moral principles that govern a person’s perception of right and wrong. (p.16)

Federalism a form of government in which a written constitution provides for a division of powers between a central government and several regional governments. (p. 9)

Formal criminal justice process – the model of the criminal justice process in which participants follow formal rules to create a smoothly functioning disposition of cases from arrest to punishment. (p.13)

Gun control efforts by a government to regulate or control the sale of guns. (p. 20)

Homeland security – a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States and reduce the country’s vulnerability to terrorism. (p.20)

Informal criminal justice process – a model of the criminal justice system that recognizes the informal authority exercised by individuals at each step of the criminal justice process. (p.15)

Justice the quality of fairness that must exist in the processes designed to determine whether individuals are guilty of criminal wrongdoing. (p. 8)

Morals principles of right and wrong behavior, as practiced by individuals or by society. (p.6)

Psychoactive drug – a drug that affects the brain, causing changes in emotions, perceptions, and behavior. (p.20)

Recidivism – the act of committing a new crime after a person has already been punished for a previous crime by being convicted and sent to jail or prison. (p.25)

Street gang – a group of people, usually three or more, who share a common identity and engage in illegal activities. (p. 20)

Terrorism – the use or threat of violence to achieve political objectives. (p. 21)

Victim – any person who suffers physical, emotional, or financial harm as a result of a criminal act. (p. 23)

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