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US Criminal Justice Policy: History and Future Essay

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2020

Policy Within the Courts, Police, and Corrections at The State Level

Public policy exists to guide the operation of the different arms of government in the management of public affairs towards a united beneficial aim of development. Policies within the criminal justice systems are designed by the executive arm of government as a response to situations that require a defined action to progress (Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2012).

It has been a long standing policy of the government of the United States, for example, that criminal justice is meant to correct and rehabilitate the offender to cease criminal ways and lead a normal life, rather than punishment as an end. The courts have adopted this policy in their abolition of the death penalty and the sentencing of convicts to less severe jail terms. The police have implemented these policies and the correctional facilities have been the drivers of the policy on the convicts.

The Development of the Approach to Policy Within the Criminal Justice System over the Last 50 Years

Up until the mid-1970s, rehabilitation and correction had been a crucial part of the US prisons policy. Convicts were encouraged to cultivate occupational skills, as well as their ability to resolve psychological problems that come with the challenges of the world, such as stress situations, depressions, anger, frustrations, and so on (Clear et al., 2012). Retrogressive and illegal practices such as substance abuse and aggression in dealing with life situations were immensely dealt with and prisoners were gradually taken off from these backward cultures to a more positive outlook to life. Since then, prisons are taken as punishment institutions, instead of their former role of correcting and reforming convicts.

Policy Implementation and Cooperation Within the Various Elements of the Criminal Justice System

The policy on crime and punishment that had been developed in the past and whose effect was quite positive in transforming offenders to become helpful influencers and developers of the society should be relived (Andrews & Bonta, 2010).

Indeed, the policy does exist on paper, but the part of implementation appears to have reneged on its obligation to this vital group in the society. The courts, while handing sentences to offenders, ought to consider the long-term effect that their decisions may have on the offenders, their families, and the society in terms of creating a better and more cohesive society. The courts should, thus, focus on correcting, rather than punishing in their rulings. The correctional facilities, on the other hand, ought to carry out their duty with diligence, in as far as molding the characters of offenders is concerned. They ought to have in place systems that will take the prisoners through a process of growth, from the wayward nature and character that they had before incarceration to useful and beneficial persons in the society (Welch, 2013).

Opportunities for Improvement for Successful Policy Implementation

Opportunities for improvement that exist in this sector lay in the development of infrastructural and legal frameworks that cater for the growth and development of prisoners beyond their jail terms (Welch, 2013). The legal basis that judges rely on in deciding on the periods of sentences for prisoners is largely left to the discretion of the judges, where quite a number sentence convicts to terms beyond the reasonably permitted ones. The law as it is now gives a wide array of choices to a judge whenever he is faced with a conviction that he is required to deliver a sentence on (Cripe, Pearlman, & Kosiak, 2012).

The law should clearly stipulate the precise terms that offenders should serve, which should allow them to serve reasonable lesser terms that rehabilitate them back to the society and not maximum life sentences (Cripe et al., 2012). Infrastructural growth is also pertinent in this regard due to the fact that prisons require facilities that stimulate the growth and development of prisoners and facilities should, thus, be put in place to develop convicts.

Criminal Justice Policy

Policy Perspectives Among the Police, Courts, and Corrections at The Federal and State Level

With regard to policy, the police are its imposers as they enforce its operation in the country. It is the work of the police to ensure that policies are laid down and followed by the citizens. The correctional facilities implement policy and its working on the ground by handling persons who are convicted of breaching policy. The courts, on the other hand, stand guided by policy whenever they arrive at decisions regarding matters touching on it (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). It is the courts that issue sentences to serve as punishment for breached policy, which the correctional facilities ensure that the punishment implemented as stipulated.

The Historical Evolution of Criminal Justice Policy Relating to Policing, the Courts, and Corrections over the Past 50 Years

The earlier period of the past fifty years saw a stern implementation of the policy regarding correction and rehabilitation as the end in conviction as opposed to mere punishment. Courts were more considerate of the state of the imprisoned and their place in the society, as opposed to deterrence through punishment (Cripe et al., 2012). Over the years, however, the practice has been diluted by the urge to incarcerate criminals away from society, largely due to the increase in crime and the pressure that rests on the judiciary to offer solutions. Consequently, this has eroded the concept of rehabilitation and its benefits, yet it proved successful in the past.

Opportunities for Cooperation Between Elements of the Criminal Justice System in the Implementation of Criminal Justice Policy

The courts need to focus more on following the policy of correction and rehabilitation, rather than acting in the heat of passion on criminals (Cripe et al., 2012). This will effectively bring about cooperation between them and the police as the latter work to enforce the decisions of the former. Additionally, the courts ought to cooperate with the correctional facilities as a way of ensuring that the reality of the situation in the prisons is factored in court decisions, such as the increase in prison inmates over the years. Moreover, there is need to view convicts as people who can reform and give them the chance to reform.


Andrews, D. A., & Bonta, J. (2010). Rehabilitating criminal justice policy and practice. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 16(1), 39-55. Web.

Clear, T., Reisig, M., & Cole, G. (2012). American corrections. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning. Web.

Cripe, C. A., Pearlman, M. G., & Kosiak, D. (2012). Legal aspects of corrections management. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers. Web.

Welch, M. (2013). Corrections: A critical approach. New York, NY: Routledge. Web.

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