Module 1-Revised.docx - Part 1 Chapter 1-3 Introduction We...

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Part 1 Chapter 1-3 Introduction We need to set the stage for understanding criminal justice in the United States. This session is designed to establish the context of criminal justice. First, a definition: Criminal justice is our formal social institution for the control of that deviance labeled crime. It is composed of three primary components of coercion —police, courts, and corrections. The criminal justice process in the United States is just one of several institutions which achieve social control. Social control is a requirement of every organized society and refers to the predictability of interactions, or to the maintenance of order. To be able to function efficiently, people need to know what to expect of others, and how to behave. Social control is the process by which the behavior of individuals is structured and organized so that interactions are predictable and orderly. Social control is achieved in many ways, by many social institutions. People learn appropriate behavior through lessons they receive from watching others, hearing examples, and their own experiences with rewards and punishments. People are also constrained in their behavior by social structure. For example, people who devote all of their time to positive activities (work, school, church, etc.) have little time for negative ones. They are “structured” out of crime. People can also be controlled by coercion—they can be forced to behave. The core of the justice process is coercive force . For an extreme example, consider paying taxes. Why do we pay taxes? Why not just refuse and keep the money? Some will say they pay taxes because it is a social duty, or because they benefit from government services. Most of us say we pay taxes because, if we don’t, the government will arrest us and put us in prison. Why not refuse to go to prison? If you try to refuse to go to prison, government agents (probably the police) will try to forcibly take you away. If you resist, these agents can kill you. Why obey the speed limit? If you break the speed limit, the police will issue a ticket. What if you ignore the ticket? If you don’t pay the fine, a warrant is issued, and agents of the government will come to arrest you and force you to pay. What if you resist? Ultimately, these agents can kill you. These two examples make the point that the authority of the justice process rests, in the final analysis, on coercive force. The late Donald Newman used to say that if you want to work in criminal justice, “Be prepared to get blood on your boots.” That is, while we often forget or ignore it, everyone in the justice system has the capacity to employ coercive force, sometimes even fatal force. Other social control institutions, such as the family or education can exercise some level of coercive force (families and schools can incarcerate by grounding or ordering detention, for example). These institutions are limited to less than lethal force. Only the criminal justice system is authorized to employ deadly force to achieve social control.
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