Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice


The criminal justice system is composed of federal, state, and local organizations and agencies. Public institutions consist of police departments and other law enforcement agencies; courts and prosecution and defender offices; probation and parole agencies; jails, prisons, and halfway houses; and corrections departments. Other groups within the criminal justice system include bail bondsmen, private agencies that supervise or treat offenders, and crime victim compensation boards and other groups that represent and assist victims. All of these organizations and agencies interact with each other.

Criminalists’ findings and reports are used by law enforcement officials, detectives, and lawyers during crime investigations and in court procedures. Also known as forensic science technicians, they work in police departments and offices, crime laboratories, morgues, and medical examiner or coroner offices. Criminalists work in teams and may specialize in crime scene investigations, which can involve being outside in all kinds of weather conditions and also entail traveling to other cities or states. In May 2018, there were 16,700 forensic science technicians employed in the United States, according to the Department of Labor.

Criminologists’ research findings are often used by policymakers to raise awareness about certain issues and to help decrease crime. Criminologists apply their background in sociology to study crime and criminals; their goal is to understand the reasons for the crime, with the aim of preventing future crime. They gather research through statistics, court reports, crime scene investigation reports, autopsies, offenders’ psychological findings, and other studies to have a clearer understanding of criminals’ behavior. There were only 3,000 sociologists, including criminologists, employed full time in the United States in May 2018. Most are employed by research and development industries in the social sciences and humanities. Others work for state, local, and private educational services, and for state and local government agencies.

The Department of Labor reported that there were nearly 91,600 probation officers and correctional treatment specialists working in the United States in May 2018. They work for state or local governments. Probation officers may also be known as community supervision officers. They help people who have been given probation instead of jail time by meeting with them regularly and writing reports on their rehabilitation progress. Parole officers work with people who have served jail time and been released for parole. They help them re-integrate to society by providing resources for such things as job training or addition counseling, and help with their rehabilitation to ensure they don’t repeat the crime.

There are also pretrial services officers, who investigate defendants before trial occurs, to make sure the defendants aren’t a flight risk and that it’s safe to allow them to return home while awaiting trial. They report their findings to the judge, who uses this information to set an appropriate bond amount or sentencing. Correctional treatment counselors, also known as case managers or correctional counselors, create rehabilitation plans for probationers after their release from jail or after they are done with parole. They interview probationers to tailor education and training programs to help them improve job skills. Other work may involve setting up counseling appointments for probationers’ and their families, sharing options for addiction or mental health treatment, or assisting with finding a job or housing. They also create parole and release plans based on input from inmates, other probation officers, and staffers at other agencies.   

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work closely with psychiatrists, social workers, physicians, and registered nurses to develop treatment plans for patients. Judges may order probationers or parolees to undergo addiction treatment, in which they are assigned to an addiction counselor as part of their rehabilitation plan. Addiction and behavioral disorder counselors teach people methods and techniques they can use to recover from addiction or change behavior patterns. They also educate families about addiction and recovery. According to the Department of Labor, about 304,500 substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work in the United States. They are employed by prisons, probation or parole agencies, juvenile detention facilities, and mental health centers. Other employers of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors include halfway houses, detox centers, and residential treatment centers, where people live in the treatment center for an established period of time.

Victim advocates provide emotional support, administrative assistance, resources for legal assistance, and other information to help victims recover after the crime. Advocates may work on crisis hotlines, lead support groups, or provide counseling to individual victims. Victim advocates typically have academic backgrounds in criminal justice, psychology, social work, or education and receive additional training to learn how to be effective advocates for crime victims. Police stations, prosecutor offices, courts, probation or parole departments, and prisons employ victim advocates. Nonprofit organizations and shelters and community centers also employ victim advocates.