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What is Criminal Justice?

It is an umbrella term used to describe the institutions in the government that uphold social control and law enforcement.  The  field is vast, and includes many job types and skill requirements.  Confused?  Need more information?  No problem that is what we are here for.  This site is dedicated to accurate and up to date information so you can find the right path for your future CJ career.

It is not just anyone that is cut out to work in the CJ field.  These jobs are demanding, require intelligence, fast action, and a willingness to go above and beyond.  There is also the possibility of exposure to potentially dangerous situations.  If you are disciplined, enjoy working in a team environment, and have a strong desire to serve your country and society than you might have found your future.

In the United States the criminal justice system consists of the following areas.

  1. Legislative branch – This branch exists at the federal, state, and local level and creates laws and ordinances in the interest of public safety.  An example of someone in the legislature would be a state elected representative.  There is no fast way to enter the legislative branch.  These jobs are held by elected officials.
  2. Law enforcement – Law enforcement officers investigate crime, create reports, gather evidence, and as needed arrest individuals who break the law.   Like the legislative branch, law enforcement agencies exist at all three levels of government.  Examples include Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), State troopers, and your local patrol officers.  These jobs are perfect for those individuals looking for action and new experiences daily.
  3. Court System – This part of the system is concerned with evaluating evidence, and proof of guilt or innocence.  A few examples are paralegal, lawyer, and judge.  Becoming a lawyer requires a college degree, in most states completion of law school, and passing the bar examination.  Jobs in the legal system are perfect for detail oriented, analytical thinkers, that are achievement oriented.
  4. Corrections – Prior to trial if incarcerated, or once someone is found guilty of a crime, they will become a part of the corrections system.  Those who work in the corrections field will take on the responsibility for the punishment and supervision of individuals who are convicted of their crimes.  Don’t think of corrections as all punishment though.  Corrections is just as much about safety and rehabilitation as enforcing the judgment of the courts.  Jobs available include corrections officer, and parole officer.   A career as a corrections officer can be a very rewarding and is perfect for anyone who can function in a high stress environment with an even temperament.

Of course, this is only a basic breakdown of the different areas and jobs.  As you can see, the justice system is vast and the jobs associated with it are many.

Sequence of Events in the CJ System

Sequence of Events in the Criminal Justice System “Cjsflowco”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Scenario:  Jobs Associated with a Criminal Case

A crime is committed –Unless the criminal is caught in the act an investigation will occur. During the investigation police organizations, for example homicide detectives, will work together to determine the guilty party and gather evidence.  Once probable cause is established the individual will be arrested.

FieldJob Titles2012 Job NumbersProjected Job NumbersExpected Growth
Forensic Science Technicians Ballistics Expert, Crime Lab Technician, Crime Scene Technician, Criminalist Technician, Forensic Analyst, Trace Evidence Technician, Wildlife Forensic Geneticist; Computer Forensic Analyst12,90013,7005.8%
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers Police and sheriff's patrol officers Border Patrol Officer, Constable, Deputy Sheriff, Highway Patrol Officer, Motorcycle Police, Patrol Officer, Policewoman, State Highway Police Officer653,800 692,700 5.9%
Information Security Analysts Information Systems Security Analyst, Computer Security Specialist, Computer Systems, Network Security Analyst, Information Security Analyst, Internet Security Specialist 75,000 102,500 36.5%
Criminal Investigators and Detectives FBI Investigator, Narcotics Investigator, United States Marshal, Homicide Detective, Narcotics Detective, Police Detective115,200 117,500 2%

Prosecution phase – Accused awaits trial date. During this time the individual might remain in custody where they will interact with corrections officers or they might be released on bail.  If bail is a possibility the criminal will interact with a judge and the defense attorney at a bail hearing.

If enough evidence is found the prosecutors will seek prosecution.  The type of crime and the severity will determine the type of trial.  Also, accused can plead guilty and go straight to sentencing.

FieldJob Titles2012 Job NumbersProjected Job NumbersExpected Growth
Bailiffs Court Security Officer, Deputy Bailiff, Court Bailiff, Court Officer16,80017,7005.3%
Court reporters Court Transcriber, Voice Writing Reporter, Court Recording Monitor, Court Stenographer, Deposition Reporter 21,20023,2009.6%
License Clerks Warrant Clerk, Circuit Court Clerk, City Clerk, Court Clerk, Deputy Court Clerk, Courtroom Clerk, Docket Clerk 130,000148,30010.6%
Magistrates and Judges Criminal Court Judge, District Court Judge, Circuit Court Judge, County Court Judge, Probate Judge, Trial Court Judge28,30029,000 2.3%
LawyerPublic Defender, Agency Legal Counsel, District Attorney, Assistant Counsel, Attorney At Law, County Attorney, Defense Attorney, General Counsel, Legal Counsel, Prosecutor, Trial Attorney, Civil Lawyer759,800834,7009.8%
LibrariansRecord Librarian, Government Documents Librarian, Law Librarian148,400159,4007.4%
Legal Assistance and Paralegals Summer Associate, Legal Aide, Legal Assistant, Paralegal, Assistant Paralegal, Summer Law Clerk277,000323,30016.7%

Punishment/rehabilitation – This phase will be structured around the sentencing of the guilty criminal.  If the crime does not warrant jail or prison time (the difference being jail is less than 1 year while prison is greater than one year) then the offender might be released on probation, or house arrest.  While on probation they will be supervised by a probation officer.  They might also be required to attend additional meetings, rehab, and other counseling programs.

If incarcerated those convicted will lose access to their freedom.  During this time, they will interact with a wide variety of corrections officers including, guards, councilors and even educators.  While it might not sound like it jobs in the prison system can be rewarding on a personal level.  It is possible to help people on their path to rehabilitation and give them the tools they need to have a better life.

FieldJob Titles2012 Job NumbersProjected Job NumbersExpected Growth
SociologistsPenologist, Criminologist2,6003,00015%
Jailers and Correctional Officers Detention Officer, Correctional Sergeant, Certified Detention Deputy, Correctional Guard, Detention Deputy, Jail Guard, Juvenile Corrections Officer, Prison Guard, Prison Officer452,800474,9004.9%
Treatment specialists and Probation OfficersCorrectional Juvenile Probation Officer, Parole Agent, Parole Officer90,30089,300 -0.9%
Behavioral Disorder and Substance Abuse Counselors Substance Abuse Counselor, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Addiction Therapist, Certified Abuse and Drug Addiction Counselor, Chemical Dependency Counselor, 89,600117,70031.4%

Many of these jobs require higher education, such as a degree in criminal justice or other law enforcement degrees. All of these jobs require someone with a dedication to serve and protect.  According to FBI.gov crime statistics in 2012 there were an estimated 1,214,426 violent crimes committed in the United States.  How many more would have happened without professional police officers?  How many offenders would be out on the street without competent lawyers and corrections officers?

If you are a person of action and high moral standing these are the jobs for you.

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