Criminal justice refers to the application of laws relating to criminal behavior. A criminal justice system is a lay down of legal and social institution for implementing the criminal law in conformity with a defined set of procedural rules and constraints. "Contemporary criminal justice agencies are political entities whose structure and function are lodged within the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the government" (Siegel, 2008, p. 8). For the sake of demonstration, I will use USA criminal justice system, which due to its varied and complex is monumental in size.
According to May, Minor, Ruddell, and Mathews (2007) despite variation that exists across the country, there are three common, interacting, and interdependent components in any criminal justice system: police, courts, and corrections. These three components are essential in criminal justice system, and each has a distinctive role that helps society on issues concerning justice and safety, and each function by exercising caution within the parameters set by law.
The police component also known as law enforcement is the most important and dangerous component of the criminal justice system. It comprises of the police officers and detectives and all other related departments. "These policing agencies enforce the law, try to prevent crimes from occurring, investigate report crimes, and provide social services in an effort to ensure domestic peace and tranquility" (May, Minor, Ruddell, & Mathews, 2007, p. 11).
These officers have responsibility of finding and arresting persons who breach the laws set forth by the state, federal government or the military. They are also liable for bringing forth indicts against perpetrators and guaranteeing the cases have enough weight to be presented before the court. As May, Minor, Ruddell, and Mathews (2007) explains, police talk to victims and other witnesses and for gathering evidence that can be used in court proceedings and they do also work closely with the prosecutor to prepare a case for trial (p. 11).
After the police finish their work, the court which is the second component of the criminal justice begins hearing process. The court system is composed of prosecutor and defense lawyers, judges and juries. According to May, Minor, Ruddell, and Mathews (2007), judge in the court component plays a prominent role (p. 11). The court system ensures that cases are handled fairly to all the parties. Lawyers make sure offenders gets fair treatment.
In most cases as May, Minor, Ruddell, and Mathews (2007) states, under the adversarial system found in the state and federal courts, the prosecutor and defense counsel presents opposing cases to the court (p. 11). Judges, who are also called finders of fact, hear the case and direct over the participants to ensure all laws are adhered during the case trial. "Although the courtroom work group and processes are similar, the juvenile court is less formal and adversarial than adult courts" (May, Minor, Ruddell, & Mathews, 2007, p. 11). A Judge finally decides a sentence except when there are predetermined sentencing procedure that should be followed. Sentencing procedures are more established in the federal justice system.
Correction is the third component of the criminal justice system. The component takes its course following ruling of the judges. May, Minor, Ruddell, & Mathews (2007) say, correction is attributed of several key agencies, including probation, jails, prisons, and parole, each of which is designed to carry out the punishments that the court has imposed on convicted defendants (p. 11). Generally we can agree that, the corrections system, which is highly determined by the two mentioned component, is very crucial and relatively large. The correction component is composed of jails, prisons, probation officer, and discipline officer. These individuals ensure stipulated orders are implemented.