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American Criminal Justice System

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The structure of the American criminal justice system is made up of several key institutions, including state, local, and federal law enforcement, judicial systems, and the correctional system. In addition, the primary functions of the criminal justice system are to maintain societal control and administer justice, while preventing new crime in the process by punishing wrongdoers and enforcing societal laws.

Local police forces represent the majority of law enforcement, and are largely responsible for "keeping the peace" in the United States. Some of their duties include investigating potential crime, arresting and detaining suspects, booking criminals, and finding probable cause to arrest criminals.

The court systems are represented by two independent judicial systems - state and federal. There are fifty-two court systems in the United States: one for each state, one federal court system, and one for the District of Colombia (Gaines and Miller, 2006). State court systems generally involve two types of courts: limited jurisdiction courts, which can hear only specific types of cases, and general jurisdiction courts, which have no restrictions on the subject matter they can address. Each court system (state and federal) also consist of several levels of courts. In the state system, these levels include local courts or courts of limited jurisdiction, general jurisdiction trial courts, intermediate appellate courts, and the highest court in the state (often called the State Supreme Court).

Within the federal court system, there are three primary levels of courts: U.S. district or trial courts with general jurisdiction, the U.S. Court of Appeals (the intermediate appellate court in the federal system), and the highest court, known as the United States Supreme Court.

The corrections system includes jails, prisons, community-based corrections, parole, and probation.



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