What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal JusticeWhat is criminal justice? It is a general term that refers to the procedures and organizations that concentrate on upholding laws.

In the United States, the criminal justice system consists of three main law divisions:

  • Law enforcement
  • Court system
  • Corrections 

Law Enforcement

There are four levels of law enforcement: local, county, state, and federal. When a person breaks the law, talking with police officers is usually his or her first contact with the criminal justice system. The officers are then responsible for deciding if an arrest is warranted after speaking to eyewitnesses or learning the results of the evidence processed by crime scene investigators.

Court System

The court system consists of judges, juries, and attorneys. It is up to the prosecuting attorney to prove the defendant’s guilt, while the defense attorney tries to prove the defendant is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the jury determines guilt or innocence, the judge will release the defendant if he is found not guilty, or sentence him and release him to the corrections department.


Jails and prisons make up the corrections branch of the criminal justice system along with parole and probation. Jails are usually found at county and local levels and hold offenders for a short period of time. Prisons house offenders for as long as necessary and are typically run by state or federal government.

Depending on the crime committed, an offender can earn early release for good behavior. At this time, he is placed on parole and must meet with a parole officer and follow certain guidelines to avoid being sent back to jail/prison.

Some offenders are given probation in lieu of a sentence and must meet with a probation officer as well as stay out of trouble or they will have to serve jail or prison time.

What are Some Jobs in the Criminal Justice Field?

Park Ranger

Park rangers are responsible for protecting the natural environment. Duties include enforcing parking regulations, containing forest fires, and teaching campers how to properly use camping equipment. They also give nature hikes and are knowledgeable in botany, ecosystems, and wildlife. There are several fields of study park rangers can major in. They include biological sciences, environmental studies, natural resources management, and wildlife forestry.

K9 Officer

Generally K9 officers begin their career as a regular police officer before starting specialized training in canine handling. Responsibilities can include monitoring suspicious behavior within their patrol area and searching buildings for bombs or drugs. Educational requirements for becoming a K9 officer vary. Some agencies hire those with a high school degree or equivalent, while others require an associate degree in criminal justice or a related field.

Deputy Sheriff

Deputy sheriffs enforce laws on the county level. They work to prevent crime, find criminals, serve warrants, and check on registered offenders. Sheriff departments usually require a high school diploma, however, there are some that require an associate degree in criminal justice or a related field.


Prosecutors are responsible for protecting the public, punishing criminals, and upholding the Constitution. Depending on the size of the city, prosecutors may specialize in trying specific crimes such as domestic violence or homicide. A law degree is required to work as a prosecutor.

Juvenile Probation Officer

Also called youth probation officers, these officers work with juvenile offenders who were placed on probation instead of serving a sentence. Officers regularly visit the offender’s home to confirm he or she is following all of the court’s mandates. They also set up rehabilitation services if necessary. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, psychology, social work, or urban affairs is generally required for an entry-level position.

If you would like to learn more about criminal justice, contact us.