Definition of Criminal Justice

Published: 2022-09-01
Definition of Criminal Justice
Essay type:  Definition essays
Categories:  History Finance Business Personality Society
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1086 words
10 min read

Criminal justice is the practical application of criminology in society. It is a system that comprises institutions, policies and practices with the goal of maintaining social control and deterring crimes through sanctions and rehabilitation (Siegel, 2010).

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The criminal justice comprises three main primary components. These include:

Law enforcement - charged with investigating crimes and apprehending individuals alleged to have committed the crimes.

Courts - responsible for interpreting and applying the law in criminal cases.

Corrections - protect the society from criminals by sending them to jail, housing, supervision in the community, parole or probation. In extreme cases, criminals may be sentenced to death.

The above components offer a range of career opportunities to students who have obtained a degree in criminal justice. Some of the career opportunities are listed below.

Careers in Court System

Judges - Interpret the law, assess the evidence of the case before them and give a verdict on the criminal case. They are impartial decision-makers in the pursuit of justice.

Prosecutors - present the case against an individual or a corporation alleged to have broken the law, initiate and direct criminal investigation and finally guide and recommend sentencing of the offenders. They are the only attorneys allowed to participate in the grand jury.

Defense attorneys - represent the interests of the offender throughout the lawsuit.

Court clerk's/jury consultant/legal secretary - they provide legal advice to judges, magistrate or lawyers. They maintain court records, administer oaths to witnesses and jurors, and authenticate copies of the court's orders and judgments with the court's seal.

Victim's advocate - represent the interest of the offender before the jury. They ensure that the victim gets justice and the offender is punished, fined and finally taken to jail, prison or in a rehabilitation center to prevent further occurrence of such crimes in the society.

Paralegals - employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, government agency or other entity and perform specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.

Careers in corrections

Correctional officer - work primarily within jails and prisons to supervise and assist those convicted of crimes. They are needed at the local, state and federals levels as each judiciary body maintains separate incarceration systems.

Probation and parole officers - monitor parolees released from the corrections system to ensure that they abide by the terms of their probation while assisting parolees with adjusting to life after release using specialized treatment techniques.

Prison Psychologists/Addiction counselors/Forensic Psychologists - care for the mental health needs of inmates in state and federal correctional systems and local jails.

Careers in Law Enforcement

Federal, state, and local law enforcement agents, detectives or police officers

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents have the primary task of enforcing federal laws

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) help the federal government to investigate violations of the law all over the world.

Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) works for the US Justice Department to enforce the drug laws of the United States.

Forensic Science technician, bloodstain pattern analyst or forensic ballistics experts - they combine the specialties of forensic science, computer science in criminal investigations. They reconstruct data and patterns on electronic media. They are usually called in courts if there is a need. Forensic scientists, blood spatter analysts have advanced knowledge in physics, biology and chemistry of the spilled blood. Blood stains and ballistics give detailed information at the crime scenes.

Salary Ranges

Majority of the salary ranges in criminal justice careers vary depending on the case, education level, experience, state or municipality. The information on the salary ranges below is mostly provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Court Systems

Judges - In 2018, the chief justice's annual salary is $267,000. The associate justices receive $255,300 according to BLS (Luther, 2018).

Prosecutors - According to a survey conducted by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), entry-level salary for a prosecuting attorney in the United States was $51,100 in 2014, with five years of experience $63,600 while those with between 11 and 15 years of experience earned a median salary of $80,000 per year. However, Harvard Law School puts the average salary for a prosecutor between $35,000 and $90,000, varying depending on the state or municipality (Time, 2018).

Defense attorneys/criminal lawyers and Victim's advocates - salaries vary as some charge their clients per hour, day or case. As of May 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual income for a private lawyer was $118,660. However, some private lawyers reported starting incomes of $200,000 or more (Time, 2018).

Court clerks - the reported average annual salary for a court clerk was approximately $35,850 as of 2015. Clerks in state government tend to earn higher wages with a national average wage of around $43,020.

Paralegals - The median pay for paralegals was $49500 according to BLS report in 2016.

Law Enforcement System

Police officers and detectives - According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for police officers and detectives was $62600 in 2016. More than 53000 law enforcement jobs are expected to be added by 2016.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement agents - FBI agents pay range is based on the federal government's General Schedule (GS) pay scale. According to, FBI special trainees are paid as GS-10, step 1 and can advance to the GS-13 level in non-supervisory positions and higher in supervisory positions. The salary of CIA officers is displayed on their website though it greatly depends on the experience and education level. For instance, salaries range between $74872 and $155500 for those based in Washington, DC

Forensic Science technician, bloodstain pattern analyst or forensic ballistics expert - An average salary of $53090 is reported for blood to spatter analysts according to BLS.

Homicide detectives receive a salary of $55010 according to BLS.

The salary of the DEA depends on education and experience but a starting salary of $49746 on average, but this can increase to $92592 or more after four years of working in the field.

Correction Systems

Probation and parole officers - According to the BLS, the 2010 median wage for probation officers was $47200 yearly.

Prison Psychologists - on the upper end of the scale, one prison psychiatrist state's average base pay was ranging between $126000 to $281952 in 2012 as per BLS.

Corrections officers - they receive an average salary of $39020 per year according to the BLS.


Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupation Employment and Wages.

Luther, C. (2018, March 19). The Average Salary of Supreme Court Justices. Work - Retrieved from, L. J., (2010). Introduction to Criminal Justice. 12th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Time, F. (2018, June 30). The Average Salary of Criminal Lawyers. Work - Retrieved from

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Definition of Criminal Justice. (2022, Sep 01). Retrieved from

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