What role does theory play in the criminal justice system? what happens from the commission of a crime, to the investigation of that crime, through the sentencing and sanctioning of the offender?

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In general, I would say that theory plays a large role in how people within and outside of the criminal justice system approaches it.  For example, theories about justice play a large role in how people outside of the system perceive it and how people within it deliver it.  I...

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In general, I would say that theory plays a large role in how people within and outside of the criminal justice system approaches it.  For example, theories about justice play a large role in how people outside of the system perceive it and how people within it deliver it.  I think that theory has a role, a purpose, and a function in the criminal justice system.  It helps provide clarity as to how elements within the system should operate and it also helps to provide reflection to ensure that individuals within it possess a strong set of core values that guide their decision making and abilities to administer justice on all levels.  Theory must meet with practice, and in this light, it can be seen as limited.  All the theoretical understandings in the world would not be able to do much of any good if they were not put into practice.  Yet, theory plays a vitally important role in ensuring that practice is sound and good practice.

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Two examples:

As the previous post points out, our prisons are meant to be a deterrent.  Ugly prisons, long sentences, etc., all these are meant to scare people away from committing crimes.

In Norway, the focus is on rehabilitation and preparing a criminal to be able to reenter society and to do so effectively.  This means that their prisons are completely different than ours and are often not scary at all.

But these theories affect everything, sentencing, the actual processing of crimes, etc.  Even the investigation is changed by the way the society approaches crime and punishment in theory.  If you want to help the person not do it again, you will look for different clues than if you want to simply prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that he did it.

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In my opinion, theory drives the way that the criminal justice system is set up.  I would say that the most obvious way in which this happens is in the correctional system.

Nowadays, the prison system is run mainly on the theory that prison terms are to be deterrents to crime.  This means that there is much more of an emphasis on long sentences and tough conditions.  If the prison system were run on the theory that prisoners are to be rehabilitated, the system would look a lot different.  There would, presumably, be much more of an emphasis on education and the teaching of job skills, for example.

 

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