The Criminal Justice System
Of all of the agencies of social control (including families. schools, and churches) in contemporary societies, only the criminal justice system has the power to control crime and punish those who are convicted of criminal conduct, TIle criminal justice system refers to the more than 55,000 local. state, and federal agencies that enforce laws, adjudicate crimes, and treat and rehabilitate criminals, The system includes
the police, the courts, and corrections facilities, and it employs more than 2 million people in 17,000 police agencies, nearly 17.000 courts. more than 8.000 prosecutorial agencies, about 6,000 correctional institutions, and more than 3.500 probation and parole departments. More than $150 billion is spent annually for civil and criminal justice. which amounts to more than $500 for every person living in the United States (Siegel, 2006). The term criminal justice system is somewhat misleading because it implies that law enforcement agencies. courts, and correctional facilities constitute one large. integrated system, when. in reality, the criminal justice system is made up of many bureaucracies that have considerable discretion in how decisions are made. Discretion refers to the use of personal judgment by police officers. prosecutors. judges. and other criminal justice system officials regarding whether and how to proceed in a given situation (. The police are a prime example of discretionary processes because they have the power to selectively enforce the law and have on many occasions been accused of being too harsh or too lenient on alleged offenders.