Utilizing Theory to Explain the Behavior of Criminal Justice Officials

Richard R. Johnson, University of Cincinnati

Until recently, theory in criminal justice has been underdeveloped and often overlooked. In this paper, two theories that explain the behavior of criminal justice officials are explored (i.e., Gottfredson and Gottfredon's Rational Decision-Making Model and Lipsky's Street-Level Bureaucrat Theory). Specifically, this paper will address how well thesee theories explain the major issues in the field of criminal justice, and how adaptable these theories are for explaining such critical issues such as: the use of discretion, discrimination, the interaction of subsystems, varying definitions of effectiveness, the balancing of values, and methods of accountability. Finally, this paper will discuss how researchers might better utilize these theories to further explain the behaviors of criminal justice officials.

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Updated 05/20/2006