Criminal Justice | Introduction to Chapter 1

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

One of the most important advantages of living in a civil society is the security that it provides. In contemporary society, the people have relegated the role of ensuring safety to the government. That is, citizens have a reasonable expectation that society, as a collective, will protect us from rogue members.

In giving power to the government to perform this critical security function, we create the potential to abuse that power. In the American criminal justice system, we see two competing and equally essential ideas: We demand security and freedom from governmental abuse of power. These freedoms are collectively known as individual rights or civil liberties. These civil rights are woven into the very fabric of our government at both the state and federal levels.

In this context, we can view the criminal justice system as a collection of rules and people (usually in public agencies) working together to protect the public from harm. Criminal justice texts commonly divide these into three broad categories: police, courts, and corrections. These three elements have the same primary function: To respond to crime. A crime violates some criminal law with no legal justification or excuse. Local, state, and federal governments can make criminal laws. The vast majority of criminal laws are a matter of state statutes.

Merely stating that the criminal justice system has the purpose of “responding to crime” results in a dramatically oversimplified view of how the system works. Every agency within the criminal justice system will agree that it responds to crime, but we find profoundly different mission statements, goals, objectives, and methods among these various agencies. A significant reason for these differences is that the public has several conflicting definitions of justice.

Chapter 1 Case Readings

Course Learning Objectives

After completing this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Describe an individual’s pathway from the first arrest to incarceration.
  2. Describe the basic structure, function, and origin of each critical element of the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system at the local, state, and federal levels of government.
  3. Explain the roles of the various actors in the criminal justice process, and describe how constitutional safeguards limit the actions of these actors.
  4. Describe the roles of various actors, institutions, and political ideologies in shaping criminal justice policies.
  5. Explain the basic functioning of both procedural and substantive criminal law.
  6. Identify and define basic terms and concepts needed for advanced criminal justice study.
  7. Explain the importance of ethics, professionalism, communication skills, and an appreciation for diversity to a successful career in criminal justice.
  8. Identify and describe the various methods by which crime statistics are gathered and identify trends in the data.

[Back | Contents | Next]

Last Modified: 06/05/2023

15 thoughts on “Criminal Justice | Introduction to Chapter 1

  1. Hello;
    I was introduced to you online textbook on Criminal Justice. I am very much interested in adopting the text for my fall classes in 2019. We have close to 300 students enrolled in our Introductory course in Criminal Justice. The text and powerpoint slides look excellent. Are there instructor materials available, such as a test bank for each chapter? I would very much like to review the test bank and implement it to our exixting course. I will be glad to pay for materials

  2. I was looking online for free courses on criminal justice and so far i think i found what i was looking for

  3. I’m really looking forward to this class. I prefer learning the truth than thinking I know the truth of how our Criminal Justice System works!

  4. Hi,
    Just from reading the introduction has made me more curious about the beginning of the Criminal Justice side. Meaning ” Once a crime has been committed. How is it determined? Example: Rather to make an arrest. Do they just go off a complaint? What is the limit for civilian arrest/ detain if the see a crime being committed. I’m looking forward to getting more in depth with this class.

  5. These few paragraphs has given me an in site to what is to come from the remainder of the course. Giving me insight on what to look forward to and use just in the passage to get a grasp.

  6. I’m very much looking forward to the information this course has to offer. Very interesting and necessary.

  7. The introduction to criminal Justice has made me wonder and open my mind to think about different events.

  8. The introduction to the criminal justice Class is definitely got me curious to see and learn the real truth about our criminal justice system

  9. I’ve always admired and wanted to be in the Criminal Justice field since I was in elementary school. It’s been something that’s fascinated me all my life. I’ve witnessed a lot, been through a lot and have yearned to make a change. As well as wanting to learn and understand everything surrounding the field. Reading the introduction of this course just sparked my interest and imagination even more than I could imagine. I’m looking forward to learn everything and anything about the Criminal Justice field.

  10. The last nine years I have had an interest in the Criminal Justice
    System. I am even more intrigued by the laws. Even though I have only been in the Department of Corrections for nine years I am ready to explore the outs and ins of the career.

  11. I’ve always admired and wanted to be in the Criminal Justice field since I was young. It’s been something that’s fascinated me all my life. I’ve witnessed a lot, been through a lot and have yearned to make a change. As well as wanting to learn and understand everything surrounding the field.

  12. I have always dreamed and admired of Criminal Justice since I was young and this is now my real opportunity to fulfil my dreams here at PCC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.