The United States of America has three cardinal branches of the criminal justice system. These include law enforcement agencies like the police, the courts system and the correctional system. Given that it is a democratic country, the United States’ criminal justice system is founded on the tenets of the rule of law. Therefore, all these three critical organs of the government must carry out their constitutional and statutory mandate within the confines of federal and state laws. Indeed, the criminal justice system is configured in a way that it enables both levels of government to function in an efficacious manner. As a result, the system can control juvenile and criminal activities by sanctioning offenders as well as providing the requisite rehabilitation to them (Neubauer & Fradella, 2013).
The police, sheriffs and federal agents are the principal agents in the law enforcement category. Their cardinal function is to ensure law and order. Otherwise put, they have a duty to manage and control crime in order to make America safe and secure. Indeed, there are, in all most all cases, the first people at the scene of the crime and thus the contact person between criminals and the courts system, as well as victims and the courts. Based on their investigation, evidence and eye witness’s testimony, they have the discretion to decide whether to make arrests. The prosecutor is the link that joins the law enforcers to courts. Courts settle disputes and punish criminals through a just, fair and transparent trial process. A prosecutor brings his court before a judge who determines the facts in issue using his grasp of the law of the land and principles of natural justice (Neubauer & Fradella, 2013). Both the prosecutor and the accused person, or through his lawyer, will be given amply time examine or cross examine witnesses on the stand. While the prosecutor’s objective is to prove the accused guilty, the accused, or his counsel seeks to create a reasonable doubt in the mind of the trier of facts. The last branch of the criminal justice system is called the correctional department. It seeks to rehabilitate and confine prisoners by assigning them sanctions handed down by the courts. Apart from incarceration, other correction mechanisms include parole and probation. These are designed to afford the offender the opportunity to make amends and participate in the activities of the society as a free person. A prison sentence can be a one day sentence up to life imprisonment (Neubauer & Fradella, 2013).
While a criminal offense is treated as an offense to the state, and thus prosecuted by the state, the justice system, through civil proceedings, provides an avenue whereby a victim of a crime can seek legal redress. A victim of crime can initiate some of the following civil proceedings against the perpetrator. These include assault, battery, wrongful death, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and conversion among others. Battery involves cases where there is actual bodily harm such as malicious wounding and foundling. Assault, on the other hand, involves putting the victim in fear. In this case, the perpetrator must be a person who is capable and able to inflict harm to the victim (Bergman, 2013). A claim of wrongful death can be instituted following a conviction of murder or manslaughter. In order for the victim to prove his case, he has to show that the death caused by the perpetrator was unjustifiable. The destruction or theft of a person’s property and the intentional misrepresentation of issues to a victim can lead to a claim of conversion and fraud respectively. In case the court finds that the perpetrator is liable, the victim, or his family in case of the victim’s death, will be awarded damages, which is a form of monetary compensation (Bergman, 2013).
A victim advocates program is a mechanism designed to facilitate the recovery of victims who suffered grievous crimes. It involves a group of professionals who seek to offer emotional support and to counsel victims to help them heal and continue with their normal lives. The main objective of victim advocate programs is to prevent victims from losing control over their lives following the unfortunate incidents. Indeed, some organizations provide hotlines, one-one-one counseling sessions and support groups to help victims recollect themselves. However, this process requires the cooperation and commitment of the victim in order to succeed. Therefore, the advocates present the victim with all the options available to him and then they let him come to a decision by himself (Fisher & Lab, 2010). Furthermore, these advocates ensure that they maintain the highest levels of confidentiality. However, a department that handles victims with law enforcement agency may collaborate with the investigative unit from time to time in the interest of justice. These programs are instrumental in safety planning, helping victims find shelter, intervening in cases involving landlords, creditors and employers on behalf of the victim and also providing legal aid. Among all the roles and responsibilities that victim advocacy programs carry out, their main role, which is extremely significant in the society, is counseling a victim and helping them back on their feet (Fisher & Lab, 2010).
Bergman, P. (2013). Criminal Law: A Desk Reference. New York: Nolo.
Fisher, B. S., & Lab, S. P. (2010). Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention, Volume 1. New York: Sage.
Neubauer, D., & Fradella, H. (2013). America's Courts and the Criminal Justice System. New York: Cengage Learning.