Criminal Justice System

Criminal Justice System in the United States

Introduction to the Criminal Justice System

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, the bill of rights has sometimes been likened to a national code of criminal procedure. However, the Constitution regulates many important aspects of criminal justice that are not “procedural” in any sense; at the same time, it fails to regulate many other important aspects.

Criminal justice is the system in which criminals are detected, detained, tried and punished. It involves several Agencies and consists of law enforcement, courts, and corrections.

The Criminal Justice System as a Counterterrorism Tool

Over the years, the U.S. Government has been committed to using its power to fight terrorism – including intelligence and military operations as well as the criminal justice system. As a counter-terrorism tool, the criminal justice system has been effective in both incapacitating terrorists and gathering valuable intelligence from and about terrorists. The Government would use the tool that it thinks is most effective for fighting terrorism, and will make those decisions based on pragmatism.

Juvenile and criminal justice reform

Across the political spectrum, there is a growing consensus to make reforms to the juvenile and criminal justice systems to ensure that criminal laws are enforced more fairly and efficiently. Unwarranted disparities and unduly harsh sentences undermine trust in the rule of law and offend the basic principles of fairness and justice. In an era of limited resources and diverse threats, there is a public safety imperative to devote the resources of the criminal justice system to the practices that are most successful at deterring crime and protecting the public.

The Obama Administration has taken a series of actions to try to introduce fairness and efficiency at all phases of the criminal justice system and to better address the vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. Meaningful sentencing reform, steps to reduce repeat offenders and reform of the juvenile justice system are crucial to improving public safety, reducing runaway incarceration costs and making our criminal justice system more fair.

A Smarter and Fairer Approach to Charging and Sentencing: A Smarter and Fairer Approach to Charging and Sentencing: The Department of Justice has instituted a series of reforms to make the federal criminal justice system more fair, more efficient and to place a greater focus on the most serious cases and dangerous offenders. These reforms have helped contribute to the first yearly reduction in the federal inmate population since 1980 and are occurring at a time when nationwide crime rates are lower than in decades.

In April 2014, the President established a clemency initiative (see below).

Previous Reforms:

  • In 2010, the President signed the Fair Sentencing Act, bipartisan legislation that eased the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required to trigger certain penalties in the federal system, including rigid mandatory minimum sentences.
  • In 2010, then-Attorney General Eric Holder reversed the Department of Justice’s previous charging policy – known as the “Ashcroft memo” – that required prosecutors to always charge crimes with the severest possible sentence, and instead instructed that cases should be charged based on the individual circumstances of the offense.
  • In August 2013, the Department of Justice launched the “Smart on Crime” initiative (see below),
  • The Department of Justice encourages judicial districts to adopt “diversion” and drug court programs that prioritize treatment instead of incarceration in order to ease our overburdened prison system and reduce recidivism.

Credibility and Accountability of the Justice System

The Department of Justice has instituted a series of measures to preserve the credibility and accountability of the criminal justice system so that it continues to maintain the trust of the communities it protects.

  • In 2010, the Department of Justice issued unprecedented rules to provide criminal defendants with broad, comprehensive pre-trial evidence – more than the law requires.
  • In May 2014, the Department announced that its federal agents would be required to videotape interrogations of detained individuals in order to ensure suspects’ civil rights are respected during all interviews.
  • In September 2014, a new Department-wide policy was put in place that directed federal prosecutors to no longer require, as a part of plea agreements, that defendants waive their right to appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel.
  • In December 2014, the Department issued updated profiling guidance that, among other things, expanded the prohibition to religion, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity and was applicable to state and local law enforcement agencies working on federal task forces.

Effective Prisoner Reentry and the Cycle of Incarceration

Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. The long-term impact of a criminal record will keep many people from obtaining employment, accessing housing, higher education, loans, and credit – even if they’ve paid their debt to society, turned their lives around, are qualified, and are unlikely to reoffend. To address this issue, then-Attorney General Holder launched the Federal Interagency Reentry Council in 2011. The Reentry Council works to align and advance reentry efforts across the federal government with an overarching aim to not only reduce recidivism and high correctional costs, but also to improve public health, child welfare, employment, education, housing and other key reintegration outcomes.

In June 2015, Congress introduced the bi-partisan Second Chance Reauthorization Act which includes language that would codify the Reentry Council and institutionalize this work over the long term. Since 2009, more than 600 Second Chance Act grant awards have been made to state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations across 49 states to help incarcerated adults and youth rejoin their communities and become productive, law abiding citizens.

Key Reentry Council Milestones

Reducing Policy Barriers to Employment and Education

This includes:

  • In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued historic anti-discrimination guidance recommending that employers avoid blanket bans on job applicants with a criminal history because of the potential disparate impact on people of color. The guidance states a criminal record should only bar someone from employment when the conviction is closely related to the job, after considering (1) the nature of the job, (2) the nature and seriousness of the offense, and (3) the length of time since it occurred.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) built on the EEOC policy with (a) guidance geared to the public workforce system, and (b) a directive for federal contractors about their obligations regarding the use of criminal records as an employment screen. DOL also launched the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-release (LEAP) program, a pilot initiative that provides specialized services to prepare incarcerated individuals for employment and increase their opportunities for successful reentry upon release.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sent a letter to public housing authorities in 2011 encouraging them to allow people with criminal records to rejoin their families in public housing programs, when appropriate.
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) developed a best practices guide regarding contractor applicants who support Federal agencies.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) proposed to amend their eligibility rules for MicroLoans, so that people on probation and parole are not automatically excluded.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken cases and published documents for job seekers about their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act when it comes to background checks.
  • In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter to campus financial aid professionals to clarify that otherwise eligible youth who are confined in juvenile justice facilities are eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants.

Addressing Collateral Consequences of a Conviction

This includes:

  • NIJ (prior to the Council’s formation) funded a project with the American Bar Association which identified 46,000 statutes and regulations that impose collateral consequences on those with a conviction, creating barriers to employment, housing, benefits, and voting. In 2011, then-AG Holder wrote to every state Attorney General, asking them to assess their state’s statutes and policies to determine if any should be eliminated.
  • In 2013, DOJ directed leadership across the Department to take collateral consequences into account when proposing any new regulation or guidance.

Increasing Reentry Service Access to Incarcerated Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revised its administrative polices that limited VA prison outreach to the six months prior to release. Reentry assessment and planning can now begin day one, thus enhancing the odds of successful reentry. The VA also expanded eligibility for its health care services to those who are in halfway house settings and built a web-based system that allows prison, jail, and court staff to quickly and accurately identify Veterans among their populations.

Support for State and Local Law Enforcement

The Administration is committed to ensuring that state and local law enforcement receive the funding, training and support they need from the federal government to serve their community and to promote officer safety and wellness.

  • From 2009 through 2014, the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office has funded the addition of nearly 10,000 community policing officers across the country.
  • In fiscal year 2014, the Department of Justice provided $276 million of critical Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding to state, local and tribal governments. The JAG Program is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions and supports a range of program areas including law enforcement, prosecution and court programs, prevention and education programs, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, crime victim and witness initiatives, and planning, evaluation and technology improvement programs.
  • The Department of Justice announced earlier this year a $263 million initiative to expand funding and training to law enforcement agencies to advance community policing initiatives. The proposal includes a $75 million investment over three years that could help purchase 50,000 body-worn cameras. In May 2015, the Office of Justice Programs announced a $20 million solicitation to help law enforcement agencies purchase body-worn cameras, and its Bureau of Justice Assistance released an online toolkit to help communities implement body-worn camera programs.
  • In December 2014, the President created a Task Force on 21st Century Policing to strengthen trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve and protect while enhancing public safety. The Administration is working with federal agencies, law enforcement organizations, civil rights organizations and state and local government to promote the adoption of the Task Force’s recent recommendations by the approximately 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies around the country.
  • In March 2015, the Administration launched the Police Data Initiative to encourage law enforcement agencies around the country to publicly release data that they had not previously released concerning stops and searches, uses of force, officer involved shootings, citations, complaints and other police actions. Already, two dozen agencies have agreed to release new data and participate in a peer-learning network to share successful innovations.

Working with State and Local Law Enforcement to Build Community Trust

The Administration has worked with state and local law enforcement agencies to build trust while enhancing public safety.

  • The Violence Reduction Network (VRN) is a meaningful approach to violence reduction that brings together city police departments with Justice Department law enforcement and grant-making components to reduce violence in some of the country’s most violent cities. DOJ works in partnership with police chiefs, researchers and other local partners on effective approaches to accomplishing their violence reduction strategies.
  • DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services’ Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance improves trust between police agencies and the communities they serve by providing a means to organizational transformation around specific issues. Agencies selected to participate must demonstrate a commitment to address the recommendations and undertake significant reform efforts. Collaborative Reform efforts have already been completed in Las Vegas, NV, which served as the pilot site for the program, and work continues in locations such as Philadelphia, PA; Spokane, WA; St. Louis County, MO; Fayetteville, NC; Salinas, CA and Calexico, CA.
  • The National Initiative for Building Trust and Justice was launched in September 2014 as a multi-faceted approach to help strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve by promoting procedural justice, reducing implicit bias and supporting racial reconciliation. The National Initiative is working intensively in Birmingham (AL), Fort Worth (TX), Gary (IN), Minneapolis (MN), Pittsburgh (PA) and Stockton (CA), and is providing technical assistance to localities that are not official demonstration sites.
  • In January 2015, the President created the Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group to identify actions that can improve Federal support for the acquisition of controlled equipment by law enforcement agencies (LEAs). In May 2015, the President received and accepted the recommendations from the Working Group which among other things: created a prohibited equipment list LEAs will no longer be able to acquire from the federal government; provided a consistent Government-wide controlled equipment list; standardized Federal procedures governing provision of controlled equipment and ensured that LEAs have proper policies and training in place regarding the appropriate use of controlled equipment. The recommendations will be implemented by the beginning of Fiscal Year 2016.

Juvenile Justice Reform

The Administration continues to pursue efforts to improve the juvenile justice system and prioritize juvenile reentry, including supporting efforts to reduce recidivism and enhance post-juvenile systems education, job-training, parenting skills, counseling and health care.

My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

Reducing violence and providing a second chance is a core goal of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, and it has been a significant focus of the policy and community-based work taking place. Efforts to act in this area have included a wide array of policy guidance, grant programs, national forums and task forces to raise awareness and seek solutions to violence and incarceration. Also, as part of the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge a place-based initiative where more than 200 communities have committed to implementing cradle-to-college and career strategies to tackle opportunity gaps, more than forty communities have committed to developing strategies to ensure all youth remain safe from violent crime.

Clemency Initiative

The goal is to encourage individuals sentenced under outdated laws and policies to petition for commutation. The President granted 89 commutations (before August 2015) to individuals serving time in federal prison. Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than would individuals convicted today of the same crime. At his direction, significant reforms have followed, such as the promulgation of new criteria for potential commutation candidates. In addition, the Department of Justice has raised awareness about how to petition for commutation to ensure that every federal inmate who believes they are deserving of this invaluable second chance has the opportunity to ask for it. The President granted more commutations than the previous four presidents combined and has granted more than any president since Lyndon Johnson.

Access to Justice

As part of the Access to Justice Initiative launched in 2010, the Department has been engaging with a wide variety of new partners – including state, local, tribal, and federal officials, nonprofit organizations, researchers, and experts from across the private sector – to expand research and funding support for the delivery of indigent defense services and to protect the Sixth Amendment guarantee to effective assistance of counsel.

Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System in relation to Crime and Race

Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System is included in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime (1), beginning with: The criminal justice system is an integral part of American government and the American historical experience. The system’s institutional components, law enforcement, courts and corrections, derive their authority from constitutional and statutory sources. Historically, the concepts of justice and criminality in the United States originate from English common law and Judeo-Christian ideas. The praxis of justice and criminality, however, has been shaped by the historic encounter of diverse peoples and interests. As a result, justice has not been experienced by all classes of Americans. Likewise, the concept of criminality has been manipulated to disadvantage certain classes of Americans. The disproportionate representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system supports the inference that the system is racially biased. There are those, however, who assert that such an inference is ideologically driven and that any disparity in the criminal justice system is due to other variables.

“Smart on Crime” initiative

In August 2013, the Department of Justice launched the “Smart on Crime” initiative, revising its charging policies to avoid triggering excessive mandatory minimums for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Since the launch of the initiative, data has shown that prosecutors are being more selective and focusing on more serious cases with a positive impact on prosecutions.

At the direction of the Attorney General in early 2013, the Justice Department launched a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system in order to identify reforms that would ensure federal laws are enforced more fairly and—in an era of reduced budgets—more efficiently. Five goals were identified as a part of this review:

  • To ensure finite resources are devoted to the most important law enforcement priorities
  • To promote fairer enforcement of the laws and alleviate disparate impacts of the criminal justice system
  • To ensure just punishments for low-level, nonviolent convictions
  • To bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism
  • To strengthen protections for vulnerable populations

The iniciative includes:

Reform Sentencing to Eliminate Unfair Disparities and Reduce Overburdened Prisons:

  • The Attorney General announced a change in Department of Justice charging policies so that certain people who have committed low-level, nonviolent drug offenses, who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences.
  • The Attorney General also announced revised criteria for other categories of inmates seeking reduced sentences. This includes elderly inmates and certain inmates who are the only possible caregiver for their dependents. In both cases, under the revised policy, the Bureau of Prisons would generally consider inmates who did not commit violent crimes and have served significant portions of their sentences to be released early.
  • The Attorney General provided guidance to federal prosecutors on recidivist enhancements. According to this directive, prosecutors should consider several factors including the use of violence and ties to large-scale criminal organizations when determining if recidivist enhancements are appropriate. When possible, prosecutors should seek to charge the defendant with a drug quantity lower than the necessary to trigger the mandatory minimum.

Pursue Alternatives to Incarceration for Low-Level, Non-Violent Crimes: The Department of Justice has also recommended the use of specialty courts and programs to deal with unique populations of offenders as recognition that incarceration is not the answer in every criminal case. Examples of these programs include diversion programs provide alternatives to incarceration for candidates with minimal criminal history or substance abuse issues.

Improve Reentry to Curb Repeat Offenses and Re-Victimization:

  • The Attorney General issued guidance to department components to avoid the imposition of unnecessary collateral consequences upon the conviction of criminal offenses. Components considering new regulations must also consider whether or not those regulations can be more narrowly tailored to prevent collateral consequences
    that would prevent reentry for offenders.
  • The Attorney General called on U.S. Attorneys to designate a prevention and reentry coordinator within each of their offices to focus on those efforts. As part of this directive, Assistant U.S. Attorneys will be newly encouraged to devote time to reentry issues in addition to casework.

‘Surge Resources to Violence Prevention and Protecting Most Vulnerable Populations: The Attorney General directed law enforcement partners to work with department components included the Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) and the Office of Violence Against Women to share information regarding best strategies to prevent violence against vulnerable populations.

Criminal Justice System


Further Reading

  • “A poster child for us”, Blecker, Robert, 89: 297-301 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • 12-member juries and unanimous verdicts: a debate, Landsman, Stephan and McCord, David, 88: 300-305 (May-June '05, AJS Judicature)
  • After further review: A new wave of innocence commissions, Gould, Jon B., 88: 126-131 (Nov.-Dec. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • Afterword: If capital punishment were subject to consumer protection laws, McCord, David, 89: 304-305 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • The authors respond (letter), Latzer, Barry and Cauthen, James N.G., 84: 115 (Nov.-Dec. '00, AJS Judicature)
  • Balancing the scales of justice, Levey, Dan S., 89: 289-291 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • Capital appeals revisited, Latzer, Barry and Cauthen, James N.G., 84: 64-71 (Sept.-Oct. '00, AJS Judicature)
  • Capital Case Crisis in Maricopa County, Arizona: A response from the defense, Dupont, Christopher and Hammond, Larry, 95: 216-220 (Mar.-Apr. '12, AJS Judicature)
  • Capital jurors as the litmus test of community conscience for the juvenile death penalty, Antonio, Michael E., Fleury-Steiner, Benjamin D., Hans, Valerie P., and Bowers, William J., 87: 274-283 (May-June '04, AJS Judicature)
  • Capital punishment and the administration of justice: A trial prosecutor's perspective, Hawkins, Bill, 89: 258-261 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • Causes and consequences of wrongful convictions: an essay review (review essay), Bedau, Hugo Adam, 86: 115-119 (Sept.-Oct. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • A chilling article (letter), Sarokin, H. Lee, 84: 114 (Nov.-Dec. '00, AJS Judicature)
  • Close encounters of the first kind, Sullivan, Thomas P., 87: 166-167, 191 (Jan.-Feb. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • Community justice: An international overview (focus), Wolf, Robert V., 91: 306-309 (May-Jun '08, AJS Judicature)
  • A Compendium of law relating to the electronic recording of custodial interrogations (focus), Sullivan, Thomas P., 95: 212-215 (Mar.-Apr. '12, AJS Judicature)
  • Connecticut requires recording of interrogations, Ream, Michael, 95: 46 (July-Aug '11, AJS Judicature)
  • A cooperative model for preventing wrongful convictions, Stookey, John A., 87: 159-162 (Jan.-Feb. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • A Court's Remarkable Recovery From a Capital Case Crisis, Gottsfield, Robert L., Rayes, Douglas L., and Starr, Patricia, 95: 221-226 (Mar.-Apr. '12, AJS Judicature)
  • Criminal justice system Court responses to batterer program noncompliance: A national survey (focus), Labriola, Melissa, O'Sullivan, Chris, Frank, Phyllis B., and Rempel, Michael, 94: 81-84 (sep-oct '10, AJS Judicature)
  • The dangers of the cultural defense, Morgan, J. Tom and Parker, Laurel, 92: 206, 208 (5, AJS Judicature)
  • Death is the whole ball game, Fagan, James, West, Valerie, and Liebman, James S., 84: 144-145 (Nov.-Dec. '00, AJS Judicature)
  • Death matters: a reply to Latzer and Cauthen, Liebman, James S., Fagan, James, and West, Valerie, 84: 72-77, 99 (Sept.-Oct. '00, AJS Judicature)
  • Defending death penalty judgments, Gillette, Dane R., 89: 262-264 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • The disparity between the number of grand jury sessions convened and the number of defendants indicted, Walker, Patrick, 87: 178-186 (Jan.-Feb. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • Do exonerations prove that “the system works?”, Marshall, Lawrence C., 86: 83-89 (Sept.-Oct. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • Eavesdropping on the adversary system (editorial), Editorial, AJS, 85: 108 (Nov.-Dec. '01, AJS Judicature)
  • Effects of capital punishment on the justice system: Reflections of a state supreme court justice, Dickson, Brent E., 89: 278-281 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • Errors of justice and the death penalty: a first-hand view, Kogan, Gerald, 86: 111-114 (Sept.-Oct. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • Examining defendant perceptions of fairness in the courtroom (focus), Frazer, M. Somjen, 91: 36-37 (Jul-Aug '07, AJS Judicature)
  • Eyewitness identification reform (editorial), Author, No, 95: 105-106 (Nov.-Dec. '11, AJS Judicature)
  • Failure to understand (letter), Gross, Samuel R., 84: 114 (Nov.-Dec. '00, AJS Judicature)
  • Forensic psychiatric diagnosis unmasked, Greenberg, Stuart A., Shuman, Daniel W., and Meyer, Robert G., 88: 210-215 (Mar.-Apr. '05, AJS Judicature)
  • From crime scene to courtroom: integrating DNA technology into the criminal justice system, Asplen, Christopher H., 83: 144-149 (Nov.-Dec. '99, AJS Judicature)
  • Genes and Justice: Foreword, Abrahamson, Shirley S., 83: 102 (Nov.-Dec. '99, AJS Judicature)
  • Hard time: Reflections on visiting federal inmates, Bennett, Mark W., 94: 304-305 (may-june '11, AJS Judicature)
  • How the malfunctioning death penalty challenges the criminal justice system, Walker, R. Neal, 89: 265-268 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • The impact of capital punishment on families of defendants and murder victims' family members, King, Rachel, 89: 292-296 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • The impact of mandatory minimum penalties in federal sentencing (viewpoint), Mauer, Marc, 94: 6-8, 40 (July-Aug '10, AJS Judicature)
  • The impacts of capital cases on a federal trial court, Goldberger, Benjamin A., 89: 274-277 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • The importance of culture for the justice system, Renteln, Alison Dundes and Valladares, Rene, 92: 194-201 (5, AJS Judicature)
  • Improving criminal justice (viewpoint), Hoffmann, Joseph L. and King, Nancy J., 95: 59-60 (sept-oct '11, AJS Judicature)
  • The Innocence Protection Act (focus), Loge, Peter, 86: 121 (Sept.-Oct. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • The institutional stability of the judiciary in the aftermath of terrorism, Shortell, Christopher and Smith, Charles Anthony, 88: 172-177 (Jan.-Feb. '05, AJS Judicature)
  • Introduction: Wrongful convictions of the innocent (introduction), Radelet, Michael L., 86: 67-68 (July-Aug. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • Introduction: The effects of capital punishment on the administration of justice, McCord, David, 89: 248-249 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • Is capital punishment akin to consumer fraud? (letter), Latzer, Barry, 90: 5-6 (July-Aug '06, AJS Judicature)
  • The jury revisited, Author, No, 88: 284-300 (May-June '05, AJS Judicature)
  • Leave no innocent behind (editorial), Editorial, AJS, 87: 156, 188 (Jan.-Feb. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • Living with the death penalty, Leyte-Vidal, Henry and Silverman, Scott J., 89: 270-273 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • The meaning of capital appeals: a rejoinder to Liebman, Fagan, and West, Latzer, Barry and Cauthen, James N.G., 84: 142-143 (Nov.-Dec. '00, AJS Judicature)
  • Miscarriage of justice: a cop's view, Olson, Robert K., 86: 74-77 (July-Aug. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • Multi-site evaluation demonstrates effectiveness of adult drug courts (focus), Rempel, Michael, Zweig, Janine M., Lindquist, Christine H., Roman, John K., Rossman, Shelli B., and Kralstein, Dana, 95: 154-157 (Jan.-Feb. '12, AJS Judicature)
  • A national assessment of public defender office caseloads (focus), Farole, Donald J., Jr. and Langton, Lynn, 94: 87-90 (sep-oct '10, AJS Judicature)
  • An open letter to the new president about the administration of justice (editorial), Editorial, AJS, 84: 172 (Jan.-Feb. '01, AJS Judicature)
  • Plea bargaining—A necessary tool for the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Author, No, 94: 178-185 (Jan-Feb '11, AJS Judicature)
  • Police experiences with recording custodial interrogations, Sullivan, Thomas P., 88: 132-136 (Nov.-Dec. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • Presidential candidates respond to questions about the justice system, Author, No, 84: 96-98 (Sept.-Oct. '00, AJS Judicature)
  • Preventing the conviction of the innocent: a compelling and urgent need, Reno, Janet, 87: 163-165 (Jan.-Feb. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • Preventing wrongful convictions (brief), Sullivan, Thomas P., 86: 106-109, 120 (Sept.-Oct. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • Preventing wrongful convictions (brief), Richert, David, 94: 313 (may-june '11, AJS Judicature)
  • Problems in cocaine sentencing (viewpoint), Zedeck, Morris S., 95: 107-108 (Nov.-Dec. '11, AJS Judicature)
  • Professor McCord responds (letter), McCord, David, 90: 6 (July-Aug '06, AJS Judicature)
  • The prosecutorial mandate: see that justice is done, Earle, Ronald and Case, Carl Bryan, Jr., 86: 69-73 (July-Aug. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • Psychological evaluation of death row inmates, Gunn, Harry E., 88: 225-227 (Mar.-Apr. '05, AJS Judicature)
  • Questions for the candidates, Editorial, AJS, 91: 108-109,134 (Nov-Dec '07, AJS Judicature)
  • Rates of reversible error and the risk of wrongful execution, Liebman, James S., 86: 78-82 (July-Aug. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • A reform roadmap for the criminal justice system (focus), Durocher, Christopher and Benson, Adrienne Lee, 95: 38-44 (July-Aug '11, AJS Judicature)
  • Report on criminal justice reform (brief), Richert, David, 94: 249 (Mar.-Apr. '11, AJS Judicature)
  • Restoring confidence in the criminal justice system (editorial), Editorial, AJS, 86: 64 (July-Aug. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • Rethinking reliance on eyewitness confidence, Vidmar, Neil, Coleman, James E., Jr., and Newman, Theresa A., 94: 16-19 (July-Aug '10, AJS Judicature)
  • The security of our liberty (editorial), Editorial, AJS, 88: 4, 44-45 (July-Aug. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • The shadow of death: The effect of capital punishment on American criminal law and policy, Steiker, Carol and Steiker, Jordan, 89: 250-253 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • Should the United States establish a criminal cases review commission?, Schehr, Robert Carl and Weathered, Lynne, 88: 122-125, 145 (Nov.-Dec. '04, AJS Judicature)
  • Systemic flaws in our criminal justice system (editorial), Editorial, AJS, 89: 244, 246 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • Therapeutic jurisprudence in action: Specialized courts for the mentally ill, Lurigio, Arthur J., Watson, Amy, Luchins, Daniel J., and Hanrahan, Patricia, 84: 184-189 (Jan.-Feb. '01, AJS Judicature)
  • Tinkering with the machinery of death: Capital punishment's toll on the American judiciary, Hintze, Michael, 89: 254-257 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • Toward the formation of “innocence commissions” in America, Scheck, Barry C. and Neufeld, Peter J., 86: 98-105 (Sept.-Oct. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • Trying kids as adults (brief), Richert, David, 86: 269 (Mar.-Apr. '03)

    The unanticipated consequences of hate crime legislation, Adams, Mike S. and Toth, Reid C., 90: 129-134 (Nov-Dec '06, AJS Judicature)

  • Understanding the United States' incarceration rate (viewpoint), Pizzi, William T., 95: 207-211 (Mar.-Apr. '12, AJS Judicature)
  • The unique challenges of cross-cultural justice: Foreword, Lynn, Barbara M.G., 92: 190-231 (5, AJS Judicature)
  • The unique challenges of cross-cultural justice: Introduction, Ridgeway, Delissa A., 92: 191-193 (5, AJS Judicature)
  • The virtues of the cultural defense, Friedman, Rameriz, Linda, 92: 207, 209-211, 247 (5, AJS Judicature)
  • What can we learn from other nations about the problem of wrongful conviction?, Huff, C. Ronald, 86: 91-97 (Sept.-Oct. '02, AJS Judicature)
  • When all eyes are watching: Trial characteristics and practices in notorious trials (focus), Hannaford-Agor, Paula L., 91: 197-201 (Jan-Feb '08, AJS Judicature)
  • When cultural tradition and criminal law collide: Prosecutorial discretion in cross-cultural cases, Kenny, Karyn, 92: 216-219 (5, AJS Judicature)
  • When ignorance may be the defense: Immigrants and knowledge of U.S. law, Veazey, Linda, 92: 202-205 (5, AJS Judicature)
  • When jurors choose to see, they choose life, Goins, Deborah A., 89: 269 (Mar.-Apr. '06, AJS Judicature)
  • Resources

    Notes and References

    1. Entry about Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime

    See Also

    • Justice System
    • Juvenile Justice System
    • Office Of Justice Programs
    • Department Of Justice Associated Agencies
    • Office of Justice Programs
    • Criminal Justice
    • Criminal Justice Information System
    • National Criminal Justice Association

Criminal Justice System: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Criminal Justice System. This part provides references, in relation to Criminal Justice System, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Criminal Justice System by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Criminal Justice System and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Criminal Justice System or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Criminal Justice System and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Criminal Justice System. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Criminal Justice System should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Criminal Justice System when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

Leave a Comment