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Chapter Summary and Key Concepts

Chapter 1 introduces the challenges of social control, the definition of crime, and the U.S. criminal justice system.

The U.S. Criminal Justice System

  • The criminal justice system is the institution of last resort.

  • The criminal justice system must respond in the name of society when crimes are committed.

  • The criminal justice system protects individual rights as a part of the law enforcement function.

  • The criminal justice system must balance the imposition of order and the preservation of individual rights.

  • The criminal justice system may be envisioned as a funnel that includes crimes, crimes known to the police, investigation, arrests, booking, charges filed by the prosecutor, the grand jury, initial appearance, preliminary hearing, arraignment, bail, plea bargaining, trial, sentencing, probation, appeal, prison, parole, and, in a few cases, capital punishment.

  • The criminal justice system has multiple goals, including deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, rehabilitation, and restoration.

  • Other means of social control besides the criminal justice system include the family, religion, schools, and the media.


  • Crime can be described as an action that violates the rules of society to the point of harming citizens or the society itself. Other crimes, such as espionage crimes, threaten a society’s political stability.

  • Crime may go undetected, and the harm is not generally perceived.

  • Broad categories of crime include sensationalized crime, street crime, corporate crime, white-collar crime, and organized crime.

  • Sensationalized crimes are given such vast resources that they distort the public’s perception of the amount and seriousness of crime.

  • Corporate crime involves the breaking of laws by a company’s employees in pursuit of profit. White-collar crime usually involves employees harming a corporation.

  • The actual crime rate does not always accurately reflect the public’s perception of the crime rate.

  • Officials use discretion to decide which cases proceed further into the criminal justice system and which ones do not. Many of the crimes that do enter the system also may be eventually excluded.

  • Many crimes that enter the system are systematically excluded for a variety of reasons, including cost, discretion, and errors.

Law Enforcement

  • Law enforcement tasks, along with courts and corrections tasks, are divided differently across the local, state, and federal branches of government.

  • Most law enforcement authority lies at the local level.

  • State law enforcement functions usually are confined to specialized missions such as highway patrol and bureaus of investigation.         

  • Federal law enforcement functions include a wide range of agencies that enforce federal laws and assist state and local governments.

  • Federal law enforcement includes the Border Patrol, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service), the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Customs Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

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