The criminal justice system is complex because it requires many different types of professionals in order to prevent crime, find criminals, prosecute criminals, detain criminals, conduct investigations, rehabilitate imprisoned and released offenders, and much more. There are many components of the criminal justice system and many ways to divide it into sub-fields. Many people, however, divide the system into three main areas:
• Police and Policing — This category generally includes those who apprehend lawbreakers and conduct criminal investigations.
• Law and Justice — Within this category, criminal justice jobs include judges, lawyers, and other professions and civil authorities that prosecute, defend, and sentence accused persons according to the law.
• Prisons and Corrections — This segment of the criminal justice system deals with the design of prisons, the care of prisoners, the rehabilitation of criminal offenders, and so on.
Within each category, there are several jobs in the criminal justice system. This list represents only a small sample of the criminal justice careers available, and it includes some of the most popular jobs in criminal justice today.
Police and Policing
• Law Enforcement Officer — The police represent one of the most recognizable components of the criminal justice system. They patrol the streets to prevent crime, respond to individuals who report crimes in progress, and much more. Officers with special training and extensive experience may be promoted to a police detectives and help work cases that are not immediately solvable.
• Crime Scene Investigator — Crime scene investigators collect evidence from the scenes of crimes and preserve it for further study. They take pictures of crime scenes; collect hair, blood, and other genetic samples for DNA identification; note the positioning of bodies; pull fingerprints, and much more. People with a strong interest in science would be good candidates for crime scene investigator jobs.
• Forensic Scientist — The forensic scientist takes the evidence collected by the crime scene investigator and analyzes it, drawing conclusions as to the time of death, cause of death, suspect profiles, and so on. Forensic scientists often deliver the evidence and conclusions that help attorneys make a convincing case to convict or acquit an accused person.
Law and Justice
• Prosecuting Attorney — A prosecuting attorney builds the state’s case against an accused person with the aim of convicting the person. Prosecuting attorneys are employees of the state, and many of them become highly recognized and respected in their communities.
• Defense Attorney — Defense attorneys defend the accused in the court of law with the aim of securing the accused person’s release. In other cases, they also work to secure a lesser sentence for the accused person who is pleading guilty or has been convicted in the court. Defense attorneys can work for private law practices or they can work for the state as a public defender.
• Judge — In the court of law, the judge oversees the trial to make sure that it follows the rules set down by the constitution and state and federal law. Judges decide whether or not evidence is admissible, permit or forbid attorney objections, sentence convicted persons, instruct juries in deliberations, and more. In the criminal justice system, elected officials usually appoint judges, and judges often retain their office through public elections. In other cases, the public votes both to install and retain district and state judges.
Prisons and Corrections
• Forensic Psychologist — A forensic psychologist may actually work in several different fields in the criminal justice system. However, as they often work with convicts who are already imprisoned, we are including this career under criminal justice jobs that have to do with corrections. Forensic psychologists interview convicts and report on their findings to attorneys and judges. They often play a critical role in determining whether an individual is fit for trial. Forensic psychologists may also take academic jobs in criminal justice and teach criminal psychology. Or they might help develop criminal profiles that can be used in many different areas of criminal justice to narrow down lists of potential suspects and so on.
• Corrections Officer — There are many prison jobs in criminal justice, but the corrections officer is among the most important of these. Corrections officers guard prisoners, watch over prisoners as they are transported from one place to another, and otherwise help maintain the security of correctional institutions.
Criminal Justice Jobs and the Future
Criminal justice will no doubt continue to evolve and add jobs in all of the components of the criminal justice system. Those who get the proper criminal justice degree are well equipped to secure their criminal justice job of choice and hold a criminal justice career that they will find exciting and fulfilling.