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The Evolution of the U.S. Criminal Justice System

How did the current criminal justice system in the United States evolve?

I want help in bring together how law started with the colonies and evolved to where it is today.
What ideas did the colonists bring with them from England?
Was the retention of prisoners' purpose for holding or punishment?
Who invented incarceration for penalty?
Why were few found guilty of minor crimes?
Was it thought that convicts were redeemable?
What is meant by the "fine tuning" of sentencing?
Why was the "Auburn System" in New York chosen over the Pennsylvania "segregate" system?
What are alternate solutions today rather than imprisonment?

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Development of the Criminal Justice System in the United States

Alfred the Great was the first to establish a jail in England. It was operated by a "sheriff" and held prisoners until their cases were heard in court. Early colonists brought this idea with them, but at first, because the communities were so small, jails were generally not needed. Social changes would cause an increase in crime and disorder and this would cause a need for the greater use of jails. Again, these jails were not used for punishment, but were more "holding cells" while the incarcerated person had his trial or was punished. According to A. D. Travis (2006) in his "Seminar In Criminal Justice," the "idea of using incarceration as the penalty for serious crime is to a large extent an American invention." According to Travis, Patrick Henry may have unwittingly defined the perfect American penalty as incarceration, when he coined the phrase, "Give me liberty or give me death." Incarceration gives neither liberty nor death. (Travis, 2006)
Corporal and/or capital punishment for minor violations was a problem as it was deemed too severe and therefore juries were prone not to find defendants guilty. They determined that incarceration was "humane" and kept people from committing crimes. (However, studies show that incarceration is not a deterrent, but merely keeps certain criminals off the street.) Being able to determine different times that should be assigned for different crimes enabled jurists and legislators to "fine tune" punishment. It was felt that criminals were "redeemable" and the purpose of incarceration became a time for the offenders to "reflect on their wrongdoing and learn new, law-abiding habits" (id). The offenders were expected to reflect on their offenses and work hard, and ...

Solution Summary

Evolution of the Criminal Justice System in the United States of America is followed from Alfred the Great through the present.