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The Three Branches Of Criminal Justice

Why are certain things deemed as right and wrong? Yes, we all have an innate moral compass, but not everyone holds true to the same values, and not everyone has the same standard of good and evil. It is for that reason that society establishes rules and standards that need to be upheld for society to function in a safe and healthy way. And this is where criminal justice comes in.

The criminal justice system refers to justice being served to criminals who break the law. It operates on three branches, namely: the police, the courts, and the corrections. Each facet of the criminal justice system is intrinsically and intimately linked.

With society having clearly defined what is right and wrong, what is right needs to be encouraged, and to some extent, it needs to be rewarded; and what is wrong needs to be corrected and stopped. While good is not always rewarded, it is the basic expectation of civilization that people should not commit crimes, heinous or minor.

When a deviation from what is expected occurs, the law needs to intervene. Let us take a deeper look at the three branches of criminal justice within the U.S., how it is upheld, and how it is enforced.

The Three Branches

The criminal justice system can be seen as stages, and although each branch is linked, a criminal may move through each stage on their journey through criminal justice. These three branches have measures set in place for the prevention of crime, but also measures to deal with crime if and when it does happen.

Pursuing a career in criminal justice is something that many aspire to do. With its multiple facets, there is a place for almost anyone, depending on your strengths and your skills.

Whether you are following your passion, or you are just hoping to serve your fellow man, the criminal justice system is comprised of roles that require extensive higher-level education, or roles that require a high school diploma or GED.

The Law Enforcement

What can be seen as the first stage of the criminal justice system and the branch in which criminals are apprehended, law enforcement is the part of the criminal justice system that is front and center. This branch is comprised of police officers, sheriffs, deputies, detectives, and investigators.

Law enforcement is an ever-present source of safety that seeks to serve and protect communities and people against crime. It is a visible aspect of criminal justice in that, while we may not see a court room every day, we are almost guaranteed to see a representative of the law in the form of a police officer or sheriff, on a daily basis.

It is the responsibility of the law enforcement officers to capture and detain anyone who may have broken the law. Once the criminal is caught, the law enforcement officer's job doesn't end. They may continue investigations and they are required to provide court testimonies if the need arises.

To join this field as a career, there are both innate and acquired skills one would need to have, in addition to certifications that would allow you to be a part of a police force. Problem solving skills and good judgement, along with excellent communication and teamwork is required for this role.

As the ones who are entrusted with upholding and enforcing the law, members of law enforcement are required to have characteristics of integrity and honesty. While you can become a member of law enforcement with just a high school diploma, or a GED, coupled with the training you will receive, a bachelor's degree or associate degree in criminology is a sure way to see yourself grow in the field.

The Courts

Once a criminal has been apprehended in the first stage of the criminal justice system, they then move onto the second stage of the courts.

Within the U.S., there are local state courts, which deal with local criminal cases, traffic offenders, and even family disputes. There are also federal courts which deal with offenses that cross state lines, and that handles larger, and sometimes more heinous crimes.

Once the criminal has made it into this branch of the criminal justice system, they will be met with judges, lawyers or attorneys, and juries, the collective of which will determine their fate in relation to the crime they have been accused of.

A jury will decide on an accused criminal's guilt or innocence, a judge will pass down sentencing, a defense attorney will argue for the accused's innocence, and a prosecution attorney will argue for their guilt.

Any role in this particular branch of the criminal justice system requires an extensive college-level education. Therefore, knowledge of case history, research skills, acute awareness and knowledge of the law, and superior communication skills are a must for this branch.

The Corrections

This is the branch of the criminal justice system that a criminal moves into once they have been convicted of a crime.

The corrections branch of the criminal justice system seeks to rehabilitate the criminal while keeping both the criminal and the rest of society safe. It is for that reason that, if convicted, a criminal is placed into a correctional facility, such as a prison, or placed on probation, where they are closely monitored.

The sentencing of a criminal will depend greatly on the crime they have been found guilty of committing.

As with the two previous stages of the justice system, the corrections are made up of multiple facets. From prison wardens to prison officers, parole officers to probation officers, each one plays a hand in the rehabilitation of a criminal.

The Three Branches Of Government

It still may leave to question who decides what is wrong and right, and who guides all the facets of the criminal justice system into knowing what is right and wrong. These rules, regulations, laws, and policies are drafted by the three branches of government.

These three branches are comprised of the legislature, which stipulate all state and federal laws that each person is required to adhere to as a member of society; the judiciary, which are those who make the decision on whether or not the legislature has been accurately upheld; and the executive branch, which is made up of the presidency, mayors, and heads of state.

It is from the executive branch that policy is made and is trickled down into society.


If you hope to become a part of the criminal justice system, you can be sure to find a role that would best suit your skills. The branch you wish to go into can also be guided by the college degree you should pursue.

It goes without saying that a role in the criminal justice system stems from passion, and it should be pursued with passion and vigor.

find criminal justice degrees near you

find criminal justice degrees near you