Conceptualizing Criminal Justice Theory and Beyond

Kelly G. Boller, University of Cincinnati

Theoretical development in the field of criminal justice has lagged behind that in the field of criminology. Utilizing the framework for examining theoretical development in the field of criminal justice developed by Bernard and Engel (2000), this paper asserts that the criminal justice system must be viewed from three distinct levels. These levels are described as: (1) an overarching system, (1) a network of organizations, and (3) individual actors. The criminal justice system has traditionally been divided into the functional groups of police, courts, and corrections. These traditional distinctions must still be analyzed, but should be done so within the framework of the levels. In this paper, the interactions between the actors and organizations within the field of criminal justice are explored, and recommendations for future theoretical development are described.

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Updated 05/20/2006