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Careers in Criminal Justice 1A: Introduction

Officer / Investigator
Career Pathway Course Units

Unit 1: Overview of Criminal Justice

Most people know that when we declared our independence from Britain in 1776, we became a nation of our own. Few people, however, realize that with our newfound freedoms came the burden of responsibility. No longer subject to the laws of the monarchy, early Americans had to come up with a new system of justice. One that would keep our citizens safe from harm. Thus, the criminal justice system in the United States was born. Over the years, the American criminal justice system has undergone many changes, and they continues to adapt to new challenges and societal demands. In this unit, we will explore the history and purpose of the criminal justice system as well as its many different parts.

Unit 2: History of the Criminal Justice System

We often have a tendency to look back on the past with rose-tinted glasses. Things seemed simpler “back then,” didn’t they? Did crime really have a place in society when our grandparents were young, or when our nation was young, or when human civilization as we know it was just being born? The short answer is: yes! Let’s trace the history of crime and criminal justice from our earliest human ancestors up to modern times.

Unit 3: US Laws: Freedom versus Responsibility

At the very core of the criminal justice system is the law. We know that chaos that would ensue if there were no laws that citizens were expected to abide by. Laws create social order that (ideally) reflect social values. When offenders break the law, they must be punished. But there are so many types of laws and different punishments for violating them! Let’s explore different ways to classify laws and crimes and the sentences offenders might receive for violating those laws and committing crimes.

Unit 4: Introduction to Careers in Criminal Justice

When deciding which criminal justice career path to go down, you’ll need to look into several different factors, including the projected growth, what education is required, the duties of this role, and how much money you’ll expect to make. You will also want to take an inventory of your personal characteristics and determine which position is your “best fit.” For example, if you are a compassionate person and love to help people who are trying to get their lives back on track, you might consider becoming a probation or parole officer. If you’re more analytical and like to solve a good mystery, a career as a forensic scientist might be a better fit. Whatever you do, you’ll want to do it with passion and strong ethics. Because after all, the whole point of the justice system is to stop the offending while protecting one and all!

Unit 5: Inside the Courtroom

Are you poised to enter a career in criminal justice? Maybe. But either way, all United States citizens may also interact with the criminal justice system when they are called to participate in jury duty. Understanding how a courtroom functions, by focusing on various court structures, each step of a trial process, and the roles and responsibilities of those involved, you will prepare yourself for to enter the criminal justice field, either as a professional or as a civil servant on jury duty. What’s involved? We’ll meet the people you’ll run into in a courtroom and take a look at courtroom demeanor, as well as take part in a mock trial. You may proceed!

Unit 6: The Juvenile Justice System

Did you know that kids as young as seven used to be sentenced and imprisoned right alongside adults? Up until the Industrial Revolution, young children and teens were subjected to cruel and unusual punishments. While some young offenders are still tried in adult courts today, most young people who run into trouble with the law are dealt with by the juvenile justice system. There are several key differences between the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system, but it wasn’t always this way. By recognizing those differences and looking at how judges and courts have shaped today’s juvenile justice system, we learn more about how to help at-risk youth avoid the cycle of the adult justice system.