Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System

A banner reading "Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System" by Adam J. McKee

This OER textbook is designed for an “introduction to criminal justice” class or a similar course.  It is designed to provide a survey of the field, including police, courts, and corrections, to students with no background in criminal justice.   

Instructor Note
Note that this introductory criminal justice text is designed to be accompanied by another text, Fundamental Cases in Criminal Justice.

New!  I’m starting to develop “Video Introductions” to this content for students.  Feel free to paste these YouTube links into your LMS.  I’ll add them to my Introduction to Criminal Justice Playlist as they are developed.

This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Table of Contents

Prefatory Materials

Preface ]

Chapter I:  The Criminal Justice System

[ Chapter Introductory Text ]

Section 1.1:  Major Components

[ Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 1.2: Roles, Objectives, and Limits in Criminal Justice

Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 1.3:  Measuring Crime

Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 1.4: The Criminal Justice Process

Text Learning Resources ]

Section 1.5:  The Criminal Justice Process (Continued)

Text | Learning Resources ]

Chapter II: The Political and Legal Environment of Criminal Justice

Chapter 2 Introductory Text ]

Section 2.1:  Dual Federalism

Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 2.2:  Politics in Criminal Justice

[ Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 2.3 The Supreme Court

Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 2.4: The Civil Rights Revolution

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section:  2.5:  Theories of Punishment

Chapter III: Criminal Law

Chapter Introductory Text ]

Section 3.1:  Sources of the Criminal Law

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 3.2:  Substantive Criminal Law

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 3.3: Elements of Crimes

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 3.4:  Legal Defenses

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 3.5:  Substantive Offenses

[ Text | Learning Resources ]

Chapter IV: Law Enforcement

Chapter Introductory Text ]

Section 4.1:  Early History of Policing

Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 4.2:  Structure and Nature of Policing

Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 4.3:  Police Methods

[ Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 4.4:  Investigations and Specialized Units

Text | Learning Resources ]

4.5:  Legal Environment of Policing

Text | Learning Resources ]

Chapter V: Courts and Sentencing

Chapter Introductory Text ]

Section 5.1:  State and Federal Courts

Text Learning Resources ]

Section 5.2:  Prosecution and Defense

Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 5.3:  Pretrial Process

Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 5.4:  The Criminal Trial

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 5.5:  Sentencing

Chapter VI: Prisons, Jails, and Community Corrections

Chapter Introductory Text ]

Section 6.1:  Jails

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 6.2 Prisons

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 6.3: Prisoner’s Rights

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 6.4:  Probation

[  Text | Learning Resources ]

Section 6.5:  Parole

Additional Sections [work in progress]

Chapter VII: Criminal Justice Theory

[ Chapter Introductory Text ]

SECTION 7.1: Classical Theories in Criminal Justice

[ Text | Learning Resources ]

SECTION 7.2: Biological Theories of Crime

[ Text | Learning Resources ]

SECTION 7.3: Psychological Theories of Crime

[ Text | Learning Resources ]

SECTION 7.4: Sociological Theories of Crime

[ Text | Learning Resources ]

SECTION 7.5: Crime Science

[ Text | Learning Resources ] (Discussing Routine Activities, Environmental Criminology, CPTED, etc.)

Chapter VIII: Special Issues in Criminal Justice

[ Chapter Introductory Text ]


[ Text | Learning Resources ]


[ Text | Learning Resources ]


[ Text | Learning Resources ]


[ Text | Learning Resources ]


[ Text | Learning Resources ]

What to help keep this site and my criminal justice OER texts running?  See the About Us page for links to donate.

APA Citation
McKee, A. J.  (2023).  Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System (2nd ed.).  Booklocker.

31 thoughts on “Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System

  1. Dear DocMckee:
    I’m writing to ask your permission to use your textbook for a dual class. I teach at Los Angeles Mission College, and I’m teaching a high school and college class via Zoom.
    Finding a suitable textbook to use was difficult. Most of the materials are excellent, but that excellence has a price, and they are unusable.

    By that I mean Schallenberger, Brohm, etc. produce 600+ pages, double columned and they look nifty, but they are not. The books are way too comprehensive, and go into details that would be better taught in advanced criminal law/procedure classes.

    Your book is not intimidating to students, and covers everything the other books try to do. It’s a Godsend to have such a book. A colleague of mine suggested looking into it, an it was all systems go.

    Let me praise you, and I will be looking forward to your other materials. I usually teach Report Writing, but I also teach the full array of Community College AJ classes.

    To the point: May I use your book for the fifteen students (primarily high schoolers’) as an OER/ZTC class?

    Again, I must thank you for making this subject not an obstacle, but an incentive to teach and learn. You know how to be succinct and it’s wonderful to see such.

    I will also ask you if I may use the “Case” related book? I have not seen that, and the Bookstore representative I deal with at Mission College alerted me to that publication, and I see you listing it among your many writings.

    DocMcKee — you’re one of those special people, and I appreciate finding this gem.

    1. Absolutely! Thanks for your kind words and for letting me know you plan to use the texts. Note that in the online versions, if you navigate to the table of contents you’ll find “learning resources” such as learning objectives and powerpoints that may make life a little easier.
      Adam McKee

      1. Mr. (“Doc”) Mckee

        I only know two words to express to you for gratitude — Thank You.

        One question: How do you use the OER system with your book?
        I want to just give them text, and then go into the instructor resources. Are the students privy to the resources, etc.?

        What a great book and a lifesaver. I will definitely add a year onto your life.

        BTW, you must have lived an interesting one. If you have time, could you tell me (write) about yourself? You’re obviously very eclectic and smart.

        Anyway, I have to go to my dual-enrollment class this afternoon, but much thanks.

        1. Everything is on my website, so students have the same access as anyone else. All of the text and instructional resources are freely available. Those that prefer paper copies can buy those from any bookseller. There are also electronic versions (.e.g., Kindle). I’ve provided links to those under the “bookstore” tab on the top of my site. My CV is available under the “About Us” tab….although it is out of date.

          We use Blackboard for all classes at my institution, so I put all of the text/links in there for students to find easily. I have an online version and a face-to-face version with all of the graded stuff removed. The content is identical.

      2. Dear Mr. McKee,

        I am using your textbook for my Senior Seminar class. It is absolutely great for this class in that it is a required class for graduation and your book allows to cover the three components of the Criminal Justice System.

        Also thank you also for the resources provided.

  2. Hello Dr. McKee,
    I need a printable version of the textbook.

    I would like to use your textbook for our prison program. We have a community college program called Rising Scholars and provide courses to incarcerated individuals. I teach an Introduction to Criminal Justice course and would like to use this textbook but the inmates do not have access to computers. I need a printable version for these students and was hoping I could get the PDF version of your textbook.

    1. I regret I can’t provide that permission. Versions formatted for print violate my agreement with my publisher. Print versions have to be purchased.
      Adam McKee

  3. Mr. McKee,

    Your book has been referenced in the National Technical Standards for the SkillsUSA Criminal Justice contest. I would like to be able to use your source with students in a high school/dual credit Criminal Justice program to create the contest which be used in an upcoming regional contest. I would link the source (from this website) through Canvas for student could access. Canvas is an LMS that requires a Username and Password for individual student use. I would like to print ONE copy for myself to use as I take notes in it for use in class as I work with the students on creating the contests.

    In advance, I would appreciate the opportunity to use this resource in our classroom.

    Thank you,

    Debbie Montgomery

  4. Hello Dr. McKee,
    Thank you for this great resource! We are adopting your textbook/resources for our Introduction to Criminal Justice course at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

    1. Thanks for letting me know! Be aware that my second edition is coming out very soon, and all pages will be updated with the latest information! The link structure will not change, so nothing will break.

  5. Doc McKee,
    Thank you for publishing a very straight forward Intro to CJ book. We have adopted this book at South Piedmont Community College in Monroe, NC and I have been very happy with it.
    I look forward to the new edition coming soon, and I am very appreciative that the links will not change, as that will make updating the courses very easy!

  6. Dear Dr. McKee,

    I would like to use portions of your “Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System,” “Fixing the Police,” and “Police Methods” texts for my ZTC Police and Society class at University of Alaska Anchorage. Ideally, I would prefer to use your “Fundamentals of Policing” text, but it is still in draft stage. I’ve read and understand the OER-QMS licensing requirements.

    Your writing is excellent and at a perfect level for a typical university student. Thank you for all you have done to make these outstanding resources available.

  7. Dr. McKee,
    We developed a course at the end of 2022 using this text for our Introduction to Criminal Justice course. At the time we were not aware that the 2nd. ed was on the way. I see in your notes above that the links are all the same. I was wondering if the were any major changes in content and if you might have a breakdown of changes from the original to the 2nd edition. My course starts on September 7 and I just realized that the book was updated. I want to make sure that my course is consistent with the current text.
    Thank you,
    Frank Plunkett, MAT, MCJ
    Peirce College, Philadelphia PA.

    1. The ideas presented did not change. Much of the new material is explanatory in nature. The biggest caveats about changes are factual things. The section on the Supreme Court, for example, has been revised almost completely because the character of the court is now vastly different than it was 5 years ago. I’ve cleaned up the glossary, but the key terms for each section and the overarching content for each section did not change. I tried very hard to update the relevant information without “breaking” courses based on links to my material, and quizzes and assignments based on key terms. If your quizzes/assignments have references to specific numbers or people, I’d suggest reviewing those for accuracy. Otherwise, you should be fine.

      1. Thank you very much Dr. Mckee. I appreciate your work and your attention to the needs of users. This course was my first real venture in OAER materials. I was a tad concerned due to the date of the 1st ed but you solved that problem with the second edition. Thanks again,
        Frank Plunkett
        Peirce College, Philadelphia PA

  8. Dr. McKee:
    I am an adjunct instructor at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. I have been reviewing your book: Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System. I am trying to design a course titled Corrections and Penology with OER to help students with costs. Am I able to use portions of your book that pertain to my class. Parts of the first chapter, chapter 6, the Bill of Rights appendix and Glossary of terms are all very helpful. If I understand correctly, I can refer them to the links and use the material on Blackboard?

    1. You are correct! I do however suggest linking to the material if your institution’s policies allow for that. That way you’ll get the latest updates when I correct errors and omissions. Lot’s of folks that pasted content into blackboard are stuck with broken content after I updated to the Second Edition. None of my classes had any problem since I provide links to the readings rather than putting the content in Blackboard. Let me know if I can be of assistance!

  9. Thank you. I do plan to link students directly to the material. I will be running it by my university. I appreciate your work in this area and the sharing of materials.

  10. Hello Mr. McKee,
    We adopted your previous edition for a statewide program in Fall of 2022. The standardized exam that was created aligned with that version. Is there a way to get a link to the previous version (before the June 2023 update)? We review these courses every three years and had hoped to be able to use the previous version until the next review.
    Thank you

    1. The print version has not been updated yet, so that is still available. The old HTML version is no longer available. However, none of the content coverage has changed. So unless you have really outdated questions such as who the current SCOTUS justices are, you should be fine. All of the key terms are exactly the same, for example.

  11. Hello,

    I am teaching an Intro to Criminal Justice course for Northern Essex Community College and I had requested permission to use this text. Really like your work on this and as an OER, it helps our students with the costs.

    Thanks for putting this together!

    1. All of the material found on the site is the second edition. The print version is still the first edition, but I’m working on getting that updated and hope to have that ready prior to the Fall Semester.

  12. Hello Dr. McKee,

    I am the OER Coordinator at Pikes Peak State College and we would like to adopt your text for our Intro to Criminal Justice course. The materials will be uploaded to our LMS which requires student log in.

    We appreciate the work you’ve put into this wonderful resource.

  13. Hi Dr. McKee,

    Thanks for providing such a great book about the Criminal Justice System. I am a Part-time instructor and request your permission to use your “Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System” with Criminal Justice undergraduate students in an asynchronous course. The primary sections that will be used are Community Corrections, Probation, and Parole. However, there may be other sections referenced for student readings to learn about the overall structure of the Criminal Justice System. Considering the costs of textbooks, our goal is to provide students with the ability to pursue their education with being deterred by additional costs. If approved, a link will be provided for students to access the most current version.

    Additionally, I request to use the Learning Resources for the course, which will be used in the Learning Management System (LMS).

    I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to use your text and resources.

  14. Prof. McKee,

    Hello! I recently came upon your online book: Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System. I am the Director of Learning and Development at a nonprofit behavioral health care organization in Aurora, Colorado. We work predominantly with individuals looking for care under Medicaid, including many clients who have involvement with the criminal justice system.

    We are developing a course for use in our learning management system on this topic and would like to use chapter 1 of your book as part of this course. We would snapshot the webpage and then provide the link so that our staff would need to individually access the content from your website. We think this would be an awesome supplemental learning experience for our teams!

    Would this form of use be okay with you? Please let us know. I’m happy to provide more information about my company, Aurora Mental Health and Recovery, if that’s useful.

    Thank you!
    Kathryn Miller

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