Criminal justice is the system of practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, or sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts. Those accused of crime have protections against abuse of investigatory and prosecution powers. The criminal justice system consists of three main parts:
1. Legislative (create laws);
2. Adjudication (courts); and
3. Corrections (jails, prisons, probation and parole).
In the criminal justice system, these distinct agencies operate together both under the rule of law and as the principal means of maintaining the rule of law within society. Training and accreditation for police officers often is merely called criminal justice. Lawyers with a special interest in either the prosecution or defense of suspected criminals may also choose to major in criminal justice in a four-year degree program. Knowledge of the laws, rights and privileges of victims and suspects is essential to aiming for justice in both the court and law enforcement systems.
Those who have interest in training with the FBI, CIA, RCMP or CSIS and may also choose to obtain a four-year degree in criminal justice. Such a degree not only studies the law as it stands, but as well evaluates the law. Subjects in universities that offer a major in criminal justice may be varied. They may include topics like forensic psychology, history of criminal justice, ethics, and sociology.
Criminal Justice Courses
A criminal justice program provides students with a broad-based understanding of the criminal justice system. The ideal curriculum should combine both theory and applied skills, providing students with the knowledge and experience needed to meet the demands of a position in this field. Special emphasis should also be is placed on understanding the perspectives of offenders, front-line professionals, administrators, the community and others who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
Introductory courses provide a fundamental understanding of key concepts and theoretical approaches developed in relation to crime, victimization, criminalization, criminal justice and penal practice. Subsequent criminal justice course content includes more in-depth study of:
• the nature and causes of crime
• processes for managing crime
• deviance and victimization
• community safety
• progressive reforms
• restorative justice
• alternatives to incarceration
Police officers train specifically on what powers they have in relationship to a suspect, and what powers they do not have. They learn how to legally administer criminal justice in their capacity as law enforcement. They further train in the measures of force, such as shooting a gun or employing pepper spray that may be lawfully used, and must be used with capability. A certain skill set in the apprehension of an escaping criminal is required. Most hoping to work in law enforcement first study criminal justice and then attend special academies to receive further training.
Above all, a good program in criminal justice should offer a multidisciplinary approach that includes employability training, emphasizing critical thinking, analytical and organizational skills, and interpersonal skills such as communications, team building and leadership.