Essay about The History of the Criminal Justice System in America

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The History of the Criminal Justice System in America

The criminal justice system has been evolving since the first colonists came to America. At first, the colonists used a criminal justice system that mirrored those in England, France, and Holland. Slowly the French and Dutch influences faded away leaving what was considered the English common law system. The common law system was nothing more than a set of rules used to solve problems within the communities. This system was not based on laws or codes, but simply that of previous decisions handed down by judges. Although rudimentary, this common law system did make the distinction between misdemeanors and the more serious crimes known as felonies.

As the colonies grew so
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This was especially true in the Puritan communities where it was not unusual for a sin to be considered a crime. Soon the criminal justice system included county sheriffs, judges and magistrates. The role of the judge was to enforce God?s will. The judge was often more concerned with the confession and repentance of the accused as opposed to actual punishment. When punishment was imposed, it was usually public and included shaming the convicted criminal.

The criminal justice system in America made slow progress during colonial times. Progress was, however, being made by the early 1800s . In 1838 Boston became the first city to have an organized police force. By the late 19th century the Federal Government began to take on some of the responsibilities previously held by local and state governments. The Department of Justice was established in 1870 and federal prisons were built. These prisons included Leavenworth built in 1895. Almost thirty years later a prison for women was built in Alderson, West Virginia. Since 1967, the criminal justice system has been guided by the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. This commission defined the criminal justice system as the means for society to "enforce the standards of conduct necessary to protect individuals and the community."

In conclusion, the criminal justice system in America is evolving to meet the needs of the people. The common law system used

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