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Study notes

Social Control: Criminal Justice System

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas, WJEC

The Criminal Justice System (CJS) is a broad and collective term for a wide range of institutions and systems that exist to prevent, detect and prosecute crime as well as to punish and/or rehabilitate offenders.

In the UK this includes the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, a criminal courts system (a wide range of courts) and the prison and probation systems. A range of legislation exists to ensure fair trials and proportionate punishments.

The Crown Court is the tribunal where more serious crimes (indictable offences) are tried.
This is a formal court with a judge and jury. The initial hearing will have taken place at a magistrates' court but, if the crime is deemed serious enough, the full hearing takes place before a Crown Court judge.

These are formal agents of social control in contrast with informal agents of social control such as the education system, the family, the media, etc. Increasingly some of these informal agencies are taking on a more formal role. For example, the Prevent Duty gives certain responsibilities to teachers and other public&dash; sector workers in relation to the prevention of radicalisation and terrorism. In this and similar ways, the contemporary criminal justice system is penetrating other societal institutions. Another example is employers and landlords being given a role in detecting and preventing illegal immigration.

Most of the professionals working in the criminal justice system (not least judges) are white, wealthy men who, like the police, are just as likely to have a "canteen culture", which will affect their interpretations and sentences. While juries are meant to mitigate against this reality to a certain extent, individual jurors are also likely to have stereotypes of typical criminals and ideal victims that will influence their verdicts.

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