corruption | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Ethics

In the criminal justice context, corruption is the abuse of power or position for personal or financial gain.

In the realm of criminal justice, corruption is a severe issue. It signifies the misuse of power or position to attain personal or financial benefits. It’s like a parasite that slowly eats away at the pillars of justice, law, and order, distorting them for personal gain. Corruption is not limited to one form; it can manifest in various ways, such as bribery, embezzlement, extortion, and fraud.

Understanding corruption and its implications is vital for maintaining the integrity of our justice system and society as a whole. It’s a dangerous problem that can erode public trust in law enforcement and government, distorts the allocation of resources, and even result in wrongful convictions.

Forms of Corruption in the Criminal Justice System

  1. Bribery: This is a common form of corruption and involves offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value as a means to influence the actions of the individual in a position of power. For example, a police officer might accept money in exchange for not issuing a traffic ticket.
  2. Embezzlement: This form of corruption involves the misappropriation of funds entrusted to someone due to their position. A court clerk, for example, might take some of the money paid in fines for personal use.
  3. Extortion: This is another form of corruption where an individual in a position of power uses threats or violence to obtain money, property, or services. A law enforcement officer might, for instance, threaten a business owner with excessive fines or shutdown unless they provide free goods or services.
  4. Fraud: This involves deceit or trickery for personal or financial gain. A corrupt official might manipulate documents or falsify evidence to achieve a particular outcome.

Who can be Involved in Corruption?

Corruption isn’t confined to a particular sector or level of the criminal justice system. Individuals in positions of power, such as judges, police officers, prosecutors, or elected officials, can be involved. These individuals wield significant influence and authority, which, if misused, can lead to corruption.

On the other hand, private organizations or businesses can also be implicated in corruption. They may engage in corrupt practices to evade regulations, avoid penalties, or gain unfair advantages.


The consequences in the criminal justice system are severe and far-reaching. Corruption can undermine the integrity of the system, making it less effective and fair. It can lead to the wrongful conviction of innocent individuals and the failure to hold guilty parties accountable.

Moreover, it erodes public trust in government and law enforcement agencies. When people lose faith in these institutions, it can lead to increased crime rates, civil unrest, and a general sense of insecurity among the population.

Lastly, corruption can lead to the misallocation of resources. Funds and resources that could be used to improve the justice system or serve the public may be diverted for personal gain.

Combatting It

To combat corruption in the criminal justice system, various measures are necessary. Ethical training and education for professionals within the system can help them understand the consequences of corruption and equip them with the tools to resist it.

Internal and external oversight mechanisms are also critical. These checks and balances help ensure that everyone within the system is held accountable for their actions.

Lastly, strict laws and penalties for corrupt behavior serve as a deterrent. The existence of stringent anti-corruption laws signals a society’s commitment to justice and fairness, making it harder for corruption to take root.

In conclusion, corruption in the criminal justice system is a pervasive issue that needs continuous effort to combat. By understanding its forms, who can be involved, its consequences, and the measures to combat it, we take a crucial step toward preserving the integrity of our justice system.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/15/2023

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.