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The Criminal justice system in any nation is a set of legal and social institutions designed to apprehend, prosecute and punish criminals; maintain social order by controlling crime and ensuring public safety.
The three main branches of a criminal justice system are: (1) law enforcement; (2) courts; and (3) corrections. Each of these branches is linked to each of the others in the process of ensuring safety and delivering justice to the public.
(1) The law enforcement comprises the police system and is primarily responsible for prevention, detection, and investigation of crime. They are the first responders to a crime scene and investigate the details. Based on their investigations or suspicions they arrest individuals and present them to the prosecutor who makes the decision about whether to press charges against the offender. The police officers also help in collecting evidence and testify for prosecution.
(2) After the arrest, the courts make decisions about bail, court proceedings, preliminary hearings, arraignments, pre-trial motions, and plea bargains. If an offender remains in the system, the courts continue with the process of delivering justice by determining the guilt of the offender and ascertaining the punishment. In the USA there are various levels of courts starting with the ”lower courts” all the way through to the highest federal appellate court which is the ”US Supreme Court.”
(3) The correctional branch of the criminal justice system is responsible for managing the defendants at both the pre-trial stage and post-trial stage where they have been determined guilty and convicted. The correctional system includes the jails and the prisons; it also includes community probation, intermediate sanctions and parole. Jails and prisons are used for incarceration of individuals whereas probation, intermediate sanctions and parole are used when the individual is granted conditional release during or after serving their sentence.
- Schmalleger, F. (2007) Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the 21st Century, 9th edn. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.