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There is no definitive model of criminal justice in the United States. Instead, one’s ideas on criminal justice are shaped by philosophical viewpoints, criminological theory, and the most up-to-date research. It is the aforementioned factors that create the six models of criminal justice used today by all areas of the justice system.

The first of these models is the crime control model. This particular model asserts that protecting society and caring for the victims of crime is the first priority of the criminal justice system, which contrasts how they see the criminal justice system working now (Siegel, 2006, p. 476). The crime control model criticises modern law enforcement and criminal justice systems, stating that they place more emphasis on creating comfortable environments than on increasing police man power, legal ramifications for crime, and creating more efficient victim care programmes.

Furthermore, Siegel (2006) notes that crime control model advocates believe that the legal system often interferes with the law enforcement side of criminal justice, thus decreasing its efficiency (p. 476). As a solution, supporters of this model propose placing more power in the hands of the police, allowing for harsher and/or stricter punishments for offenders, reducing the power of the legal system over criminal justice, and building more prisons to house each and every criminal instead of using the lack of prisons as an excuse for a lesser punishment.

Crime control also seeks to deter crime from occurring through the threat of tougher punishments like the death penalty. Several states took on crime control model policies and altered juvenile crime laws that make it easier for juvenile offenders to be tried as adults (Siegel, 2006, p. 477). Furthermore, sex offender watches and registration, stricter requirements for a successful insanity plea, and increased societal watch, are all examples of crime control methods to deter first time and repeat offenders.

In contrast, the justice model criticises crime control for their notions of deterrence. It claims that it is unjust to apprehend individuals based on assumptions of the future, or on the assumption that their punishment will deter other like-minded individuals from committing crime (Siegel, 2006, p. 478). Furthermore, the justice model criticises rehabilitation of offenders claiming that it too only serves the purposes of injustice and unfairness since only a select number of offenders are eligible and receptive to rehabilitation efforts. Because only a select few can receive rehabilitation, then the same offenses are being treated differently by the criminal justice system, thus breeding injustice within the system (Siegel, 2006, p. 478). This idea of justice and injustice also relates to the justice model’s idea of non-discrimination, meaning that such things as racial profiling, commonly used today, is unacceptable and in essence a crime itself.

In response to the aforementioned complaints, the justice model seeks to set consistent consequences for crime, meaning that all vehicle theft would receive the same sentence, instead of one person getting two years and another getting six months and rehabilitation. Sentences would be the same across the board in order to create total equality in the justice system. Additionally, advocates claim that parole should be abolished, as it is based on discretion, and as such is innately unfair (Siegel, 2006, p. 478). States adopting justice model policies often opt for parole limitations, sentencing guidelines by which the criminal justice and legal systems must follow, and prison sentences as punishment rather than a method of rehabilitation.

Another prominent point of view in the world of criminal justice is the due process model. This particular model is one of the strongest contrasting views to the crime control model, it asserts the priority of protecting the civil rights of the criminals; believes in rehabilitation, individualised justice, use of discretion; and emphasises procedural fairness. These ideals in turn call for stricter regulations on police and other law enforcement agencies, including scrutiny on police procedures, strictly following sentencing procedure, and developing and adhering to a set of prisoner’s rights in order to ensure fair treatment (Siegel, 2006, p. 478). In essence, due process model supporters work for the good of civil rights and equality, and are most often concerned with keeping the law enforcement system in check, or within strict guidelines. Specific areas of interest are sex offender registries, use of technology to check up on citizens, wiretapping, search and seizure, identification systems, fingerprinting, etc; because they believe each and every one of these somehow violates personal rights and civil liberties while doing very little to combat or deter crime (Siegel, 2006, p. 478).

The rehabilitation model is a fairly easy one to grasp, with a name that describes its beliefs fairly accurately. Rehabilitation model advocates argue that criminals are the product of a society that has failed them. As such, punishment will do nothing to help them, and after release they will only fall into a life of crime again. In order to break this vicious cycle, this particular viewpoint argues for programmes that empower people, counsel them, and teach them to be law-abiding, self-sufficient citizens (Siegel, 2006, p. 479). Of course, these rehabilitation programmes also treat medical and psychological problems that may also be at the root of criminal behaviour, which they believe will further reduce a community’s crime rate.

The non-intervention model takes a rather hands-off stance to crime and interaction between criminal and the law enforcement system. Instead of the criminal justice system seeking to put people into correctional institutions, they seek to pull people from them and place them in community based facilities and treatments. Furthermore, they seek to legalise lesser offenses, such as possession of small amounts of marijuana (Siegel, 2006, p. 479). Why would a perspective of criminal justice want to do this? Supporters of the non-intervention model assert that the labels forced on offenders also force a stigma on them that limits their post-prison success. Who will hire an ex-convict or a juvenile delinquent? These labels are said to hinder not only the community, but also weigh on the self-esteem of the labelled individual. According to Siegel (2006), a counter to this problem is having “Police, courts, and correctional agencies” concentrate “their efforts on diverting law violators out of the formal justice systems, thereby helping them to avoid the stigma of formal labels” (p. 479).

A sixth concept is also present, called the restorative justice model, and as an extra, it will be discussed here. This model is based on the belief that the criminal justice system is in place in order to maintain peace and order throughout the country. Thus, instead of placing emphasis on punishment for a crime, they place emphasis on the peace-making process (Siegel, 2006, p. 480). The restorative justice model holds that violent acts of punishment by the state are similar to the violent acts which they are supposed to be advocating against, and as such should not be encouraged. Instead, more humane and encouraging punishments should be used, such as probation, rehabilitation, treatment, etc (Siegel, 2006, p. 480). Essentially, the restorative justice model seeks to repair a damaged society without creating more damage by peacefully resolving conflict, treating crime instead of violently punishing it, and by bringing the community together instead of splitting it apart.


* Adam Smith is an American academic expert and can be contacted at <[email protected]>



Siegel, L., J. (2006). Criminology, 10th Edition. University Of Massachusetts, Lowell. Thomson.