Americans take pride in having a country that is governed based on the rule of law. The US justice system incorporates both federal and state systems and structures, whose responsibilities are to adjudicate civil and criminal cases that fall within their jurisdiction. The concept of a system implies something that is rationally coordinated and regulated to attain its goals. Thus, the structure of the US justice system entails the police, federal and state courts, and corrections. Responsibilities for judicial administration vary with each individual court, as each court has its own support staff, manage its own budget, and keep its own records. The US Supreme Court has the power over other federal courts. The US justice organ is among the most sophisticated systems in the world, but has been effective in running the country, despite the geographical size of the country.
Organizational Structure of the US Justice System
In a democratic society, such as the US, laws serve to provide security, enhance predictability, solve conflicts, and to strengthen society’s values. In addition, it serves to enhance the sharing of social costs and gains. In the justice system, organizational structure offers a framework under which different components carry out their responsibilities that collectively enable the system to attain its goals (Stojkovic, Kalinich, and Klofas 25-26). The US criminal justice system, which is part of the overall justice system, has been successful in its functions due to its impartiality and having a well-organized hierarchy. The system incorporates three core components that include police, courts, and corrections. Such components are vital in preventing and deterring crime through apprehending, trying, as well as punishing offenders. Each system has to accomplish the responsibility of adjudicating civil and criminal cases under its jurisdiction.
The police department is a public agency charged with maintaining of order, implementation of criminal law, and offering services. Police officers work with the community to ensure that citizens are safe from criminal activities. Under the law enforcement agency, police officers are engaged in offering first response during emergencies. Police officers also assist courts by collaborating with the prosecutors in investigating crime and gathering evidence that prove a crime was committed. The federal police organization (also known as FBI) was established to investigate crimes of treason, or interstate crimes, as the authority of one state lacks the capacity to handle such offenses (Falk 19).
The US justice system does not have a national police force, as policing is managed within states and local levels. However, federal police and law enforcement agencies are utilized to enforce laws within the federal level. Police agencies shared different tasks based on their functions (Stojkovic, Kalinich, and Klofas 31). Police force incorporates city police, state police, transport police, sheriff, highway police, and patrol officers. Police duty varies with location and level. For instance, city police deal with local crime while state police and the FBI carry out investigations beyond local boundaries.
Courts are vital in the justice system because they deal with both civil and criminal matters in any state. The US Constitution established a federal system, which permits the federal government to enjoy some powers while the state governments exercise other powers. Thus, federal and state courts perform similar functions, but are distinct entities. Federal courts attend to cases that involve the constitutionality of the law, solving disagreements between states, handling maritime law, and determining cases of bankruptcy. On top of the federal courts are the trial courts, where cases begin. Trial courts may be criminal or civil, but with similar structures. At the trial courts, parties are allowed to present their evidence, which could prove to the judges that the facts are admissible to their side. The judges in trial courts are likely to end the case by offering their verdicts.
Appellate courts usually handle cases where trial courts have failed to offer satisfactory judgment. In the appellate courts, the judges listen to the appeal made by parties that were not satisfied by the way that the trial was conducted in the trial court. Appellate courts do not hear cases afresh, but strive to correct what the lower courts may have erred. The Supreme Court is uppermost court in the land, which holds the last resort rights in the review of decisions made by state courts, as well as state Supreme Courts. The decision by the Supreme Court indicates the end of a particular case. The US Constitution provides for the creation of the Supreme Court while Congress is allowed to institute the lower federal courts. States are also expected to follow this hierarchy of courts, but can decide to utilize different name to refer to different levels of courts.
Corrections are essential parts of the criminal justice structure and incorporate jails, prisons, probations, and community-based sanctions, which are responsible for punishing and rehabilitating offenders. Corrections are essential in ensuring that citizens are safe in their localities. Organizational structure of correctional facilities has continued to change over time, and no formal organizational chart is capable of portraying the whole picture of corrections’ organization (Clear, Cole, and Reisig 321).
Administration Process of the U.S. Justice System
In the US, the administration of justice is normally carried out by the federal government, state governments, and local governments, but the judicial branches are detached from the legislative branches. All levels within the justice process portray a high scale of discretion, which implies that each department in the justice system has the freedom to act in accordance with its own judgment and conscience (Cole, Smith and Dejong 99). The most innovative approach in dealing with court problems has been the establishment of professional bodies of trained administrators to assist judges in carrying out managerial duties. Judges have a responsibility of ensuring that individuals receive timely and impartial hearings, in addition to upholding court ethics.
The Administration Office is a creation of Congress, as part of the judicial branch, charged with offering a wide range of legislative, financial, legal, administrative, as well as program support services to the US federal courts. The office receives advice from the Judicial Conference committees on the development of the annual judiciary budget, which is later approved by Congress and the President. The Federal Judicial Center (FJC) is also involved in the administration of US courts through conducting educational programs for judges and federal court staff (Wilson 531). Apart from administration and education, the FJC is also involved in conducting research, recordng history, and facilitating international judicial relations. The Judicial Conference committee appoints the FJC’s Board of Directors, where the chief justice serves as the chairperson.
State and local governments carry the burden of compensating court staff, in addition to funding criminal justice departments within their jurisdiction. However, the state supreme court possesses the overall authority of administration over the court system. Judicial administration requires legal expertise, as well as the capacity to understand how the court systems operate in offering speedy and impartial judgments. In addition, court administration consists of managing court budgets, recommending rules of trial, evaluating judicial discipline matters, as well as providing continuing educational programs. While the federal courts have centralized form of administration and funding, the criminal courts are staffed, administered, and financed by the federal government or the city government (Cole, Smith and Dejong 355).
In correctional facilities, states and local government also contribute in the recruitment and running of various departments. However, a great number of public believes that correctional facilities in the US are poorly managed, as most of them are managed through authoritarian rule, where officers give orders while inmates are expected to follow them without questioning (Clear, Cole, and Reisig 323). Correctional officers are legally allowed to enforce rules, and are supported by state police in ensuring that the rules are followed without questioning.
Technology has played a significant role in the administration of justice system in the US. It has assisted the courts in carrying their responsibilities by reducing hours of operation and minimizing economic pressures. Courts are nowadays employing less staff, thus, reducing economic pressure and enhancing delivery. With the rise in Internet use and cost limitations, both federal and state governments have directed funds in developing systems that encourage information sharing and storage of electronic files that eliminate duplication of information in courts and police agencies. In correction, advance in surveillance, as well as control technologies, has assisted in the running of prisons, but it necessitates sophisticated technical support, which often lack in many prisons (Clear, Cole, and Reisig 525).
The US justice system is quite complicated, but it has served the country effectively by ensuring that people have abided to the Constitution and state laws. The US Constitution has provided for a power sharing where the federal government has its distinct power while the state governments are allowed to exercise certain powers. Both federal courts and state courts ensure that disputes are resolved amicably through fair trials, and that laws are enforced in a rational manner. Police officers carry out different functions in enforcing the law, based on their location while corrections ensure that criminal offenders are punished or rehabilitated to enhance public security. Congress has also established administrative processes that enable the justice system to operate effectively.
Clear, Todd R, and George F. Cole. American Corrections. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2006. Print.
Cole, George F., Christopher Smith, and Christina Dejong. American System of Criminal Justice. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.
Falk, Gerhard. The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn’t, and How to Fix It. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger, 2010. Print.
Stojkovic, Stan, David B. Kalinich, and John Klofas. Criminal Justice Organizations: Administration and Management. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.
Wilson, Steven H. The U.s. Justice System: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2012. Print.