The current paper focuses on the system of criminal justice of the United States. The work of Dogutas, Dolu & Gul (2007) divides American criminal justice system into three basic components, such as law enforcement, adjudications, and corrections. According to information from the articles “Types of law enforcement agencies” (2013), “Federal Courts’ Structure” (n.d.) and “Prison types & general information” (n.d.), law enforcement is represented by police bodies of local, state, and federal levels, as well as courts and prisons. All aforementioned components of the U.S. criminal justice system act rigidly under the Constitution and are based upon the idea that the person that violated a specific law may be punished by the Government. The correctional policy in the United States serially allocated rehabilitation and punishment of the convicted. Present toughening of punishment caused the steady growth of a number of the put Americans and, therefore, expenses. Thus, new programs and forces for situation correction are required (Vile, 2013).
System of Criminal Justice
In order to deal with the criminals, who cannot be deterred, and crimes, which cannot be prevented, the American criminal justice system is acting. Institutions and procedures, which were carefully constructed and inspired by expediency and principles, have accumulated layer upon layer. Nowadays, American justice system consists of three major levels, which are military, federal, and state. Each of these levels is divided into three basic components, such as law enforcement, adjudications, and corrections.
The most important body of the criminal justice system is police. In the USA, police does not exist as the uniform body. Police are organized at three levels, i.e. federal, state and local. In addition, federal police consists only of the departmental bodies, making investigations. Their number exceeds 50 departmental bodies. The structure of each is defined by functions and tasks of the body (Dogutas, Dolu & Gul, 2007).
The system of the Department of the Treasury includes such investigating bodies as the Coast Guard, Customs service, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Secret Service. The special unit of the Treasury is engaged in the crimes associated with violation of the tax legislation and customs rules. The Treasury bureau of drugs investigates cases on a violation of the law concerning narcotic substances. The Treasury Security service investigates infringement of the president and members of his family, counterfeiting of money, and forgery. Inspectorates of the Post Office Department investigate criminal violations of postal regulations (Types of law enforcement agencies, 2013).
Though each body has its certain tasks and sphere of action, there is a constant exchange of information and transfer of cases between them. Competence of one or another federal police service is defined depending on a functional orientation of its activity. In relation to each police service, the exact list of the criminal laws concerning those crimes due to which it has to make investigations is formed (Types of law enforcement agencies, 2013).
The police of the state are limited in its activity by the territory of state and, therefore, are competent to carry out investigation only within the state territory. The organization of police body, their competence, and budget are defined by the state legislation. The duties of the police are primarily to maintain order on the highways, to fight against crimes under state law. In addition, state police assists local police. Local police is created by local government bodies of the districts, cities, and administratively independent settlements. Each police formation has a right to act within its territory and formally is independent of the state government (Types of law enforcement agencies, 2013).
The U.S. court proceedings are based on the dualistic legal system, i.e. on the system of state and federal courts, which, despite their independence and autonomy of each other, are the structural elements of a single entity. In the USA, the federal judicial system organizationally is not connected in any way with judicial systems of states, but exists in tandem with them. At the federal level, there are the U.S. Supreme court, district courts of appeal, special appellate courts, federal district courts, special courts of first instance, and the federal system of military courts (Federal Courts’ Structure, n.d.).
The division of jurisdiction of the state courts and federation depends on the controversial nature of the legal relationship and the legal nature of the controversial subjects of the legal relations. According to the first ground, the federal courts handle disputes in criminal and civil cases arising from federal legislation. Essentially, federal laws run the crimes of high public danger, for example, felonies and civil cases, where the sum of the claim exceeds $5000. According to the parties’ composition, jurisdiction is defined as following: disputes involving the U.S. government, states, and federations, which are represented by authorities, are always considered by the courts of the United States (Jenkins, 2011).
Jurisdiction of states is residual. Everything that is not within the competence of the federal courts is considered by courts of states. In criminal procedure, about 95 percent of all cases are considered by courts of states. This results from the fact that crimes against the USA pursued by laws of federation belong to the exclusive competence of federation. As a whole specific weight of those most socially dangerous acts is insignificant, therefore, the bulk of crimes represents the acts directed against interests of states and persecuted by their law (Jenkins, 2011).
The Supreme Court of the USA represents both jurisdictional and political body. As the jurisdictional body, the Supreme Court of the USA deals with disputes between the states, some types of cases transferred from the state courts, disputes between states and the federal government, disputes in which foreign diplomatic corps participates. As the appellate instance, the Supreme Court deals with all decisions of federal courts and special courts of appeal, all decisions of the Supreme Courts of states (Federal Courts’ Structure, n.d.).
In each district, there is a prison, where the defendants expecting trials and the defendants convicted for small crimes are contained. At the level of districts, the departments of probation are usually organized. Probation is the most widespread sentence pronounced by the American judges on criminal cases. Actually, the defendant avoids prison, as far as he or she does not create problems and observes rules, norms, and the accountability requirements established by the department of probation. The judge defines the term of conditional sentence; usually it stands at a few years. The judge can also apply special conditions, such as participation in the program of treatment of drug addiction, preservation of employment, or further education at school, if the offender is underage. Since the establishments of the temporary detention are not punitive, they should not contain already convicted persons (Prison types & general information, n.d.).
In turn, correctional facilities where prisoners are serving time consist of three levels: the county jails, State Prison, and federal prisons. County jails are managed by the local government and are intended for the detention of persons for the term of more than 48 hours, but less than one year. Specialists of criminal and executive system of the USA consider that conditions of detention in county jails are inferior to conditions of detention in federal prisons because the administration of county jails is financed worse, than management of federal prisons. Among the convicts in county jails, there are only those who are incarcerated for a period of up to one year. Those who are sentenced to longer terms are transferred to state prisons (Vile, 2013).
Federal prisons are correctional facilities of federal value in which condemned serve the sentence for more than one year. Actually, in these establishments, the bigger attention to management is paid; they have the best educational programs, programs of the organization of leisure, and vocational training, since they are bigger in size, contain more prisoners, and, thus, have the bigger budget (Vile, 2013). Prisons usually differ on three certain levels of a regime for the prisoners, which is based on an assessment of danger they can represent, i.e. maximum security detention, medium, and minimum. Prisons with the maximum isolation or a specific regime are intended for the detention of the most dangerous, cruel, and aggressive prisoners. Such prisons are equipped with high concrete walls or a fencing of double perimeter holding electric current, towers with the armed employees, and strategically located electronic monitors. Each state has one or several prisons with the maximum regime of detention (Prison types & general information, n.d.).
In the United States, people perceive police officers and judges as the lawful public agents possessing considerable powers, which they can use for ensuring implementation of the law. Police officers and judges are considered to be the public agents whose decisions are supported with application of means of detention, i.e. punishment. However, the American criminal justice system is overloaded and overflowed with the work, insufficiently financed and is very often misunderstood. Therefore, it is worth introducing bigger number of educational activities by means of technical resources, public support, and reformations.
- Dogutas, C., Dolu, O. and Gul, S. K. (2007). A comparative study of the police training in the United Kingdom, the United States and Turkey. Turkish Journal of Police Studies, 9(1), 4.
- Federal Courts’ Structure (n.d.). United States courts. Retrieved from http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/UnderstandingtheFederalCourts/FederalCourtsStructure.aspx
- Jenkins, J. A. (2011). The American courts: A procedural approach. Sudbury, Massachussetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers LLC.
- Prison types & general information (n.d.). Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved from http://www.bop.gov/locations/institutions/index.jsp
- Types of law enforcement agencies (2013). Discover Policing. Retrieved from http://discoverpolicing.org/whats_like/?fa=types_jobs
- Vile, M. J. (2013). Politics in the USA (5th ed.). New York: Routledge.