Differences and Similarities of Federal and State Governments

The Components of Criminal Justice System: Police, Courts and Corrections

Criminal justice system in the USA consists of three major agencies, police, courts and corrections. These agencies are interdependent and have different history, goals and procedures, however, these agencies are closely interconnected. This interconnection is explained by the unity of the criminal justice system in the USA (Neubauer & Fradella, 2010). Each of the mentioned above agencies is unable to cope with the specific problems individually, as performing specific functions, they are unable to cope with others.

Police is responsible for “enforcing the law and/or providing protection to our local communities” (Marion, & Oliver, 2006, p. 332). Trying to present the purpose of policing in a couple of words, it may be stated that police performs order maintenance, crime prevention, and law enforcement services. There are many specific departments of police, which apply a mosaic vision of its agencies, federal, state, and local. The role of police in policymaking is significant as performing their tasks, they maintain law and try to deliver more useful information to citizens. Dwelling upon law and its issues, police officers participate in setting goals and developing the problems which should be combated (Marion, & Oliver, 2006).

Courts are the agencies of the criminal justice system in the USA which help maintain order in the society. Courtroom actors are the inevitable participants of the court procedures. Judges play vital role in the agency functioning. Dwelling upon the role of courts in the policymaking, it should be stated that it is significant, even though it is rather passive. Courts are unable to search for specific problems and cope with them, they are to wait for an appropriate case (a dispute or a disagreement), consider it and basing on particular legislation make a decision which may become a policy ground (Marion, & Oliver, 2006, p. 374).

Dwelling upon correction system as a part of criminal justice system, it “includes any correctional policy, program, or agency that has the aim or goal of ‘correcting’ any behaviour that society finds unacceptable or that has been made illegal by a legislature, typically through punishment or rehabilitation” (Marion, & Oliver, 2006, p. 402). The role of corrections is not that great in policymaking, however, as a part of criminal justice system, it participates in the policy development.

Federal vs. State Policy Comparison

Only highlighting the most general differences in federal and state policy issues, it is possible to consider the governmental differences in detail within each agency. It is crucial to differentiate the federal and state impacts on criminal justice system as, according to Wright (2006):

Because of remarkable growth in the reach of the federal criminal code over many generations, a huge potential overlap now exists between federal and state criminal justice. Especially for narcotics and firearms crimes, precisely the same conduct could lead to criminal charges in federal court, in state court, or both (p. 16).

Thus, it is significant to know the differences and similarities of federal and state government as it pertains to their role in the implementation of criminal justice policy.

Working on one and the same goal, state and federal agencies have many differences and some of the differences cause many problems for them. Thus, federal government wants to have more power in the states explained by the desire to control over some specific aspects of legislation. However, according to the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, states become independent from federal government, even though it is one of the most contestable and contradictory Amendments in the Bill of Rights (Orr, 2011). Thus, the adoption of the Tenth Amendment limited federal impact on the states, the criminal judicial system remained highly dependent from national government even though some laws are adopted at the state level.

Federal vs. State Role of Police in the Implementation of Criminal Justice Policy

As it has already been mentioned above police is the representative of law enforcement. Apart from police, law enforcement mandate has numerous agencies on federal and state levels. Federal law enforcement department is rather complex, in spite of the fact that it consists of small agencies. Each agency performs specific roles and sets particular roles without interfering with each other. State law enforcement agencies are numerous as well, however, highway patrol is one of the most spread structures. In some states, highway patrol services not only state roads, but also federal ones. Moreover, some police officers are enforced to perform only specific duties, like combating organised crime, drug offenses, and the like (Travis, 2011).

Turning to the police role in the implementation of the policymaking at the state and federal level, it should be mentioned that the impact is really impressive. Federal police is one of the most influential agencies in the policymaking. Federal government has an opportunity to regulate the immigration rate, apart from state government which cannot deal with such issues. The power of federal police is much higher and more independent. Federal police has the power to encourage and control the activities of the most states by means of grants and threats. Dealing closer with federal policymaking, it may be stated that national government can administrate and fund policy issues that makes it preferably influential in the country (Marion, & Oliver, 2006, p. 354).

State government can also participate in policymaking, still its impact is much lower. In comparison, state police cannot create attractive grants or affect federal government by means of threatening. State police has an opportunity to create law enforcement agencies, but they can never have complete control over them. State is eligible for creating policies and rules for state functioning, but these policies and activities usually influence only a specific state. However, state government has an opportunity to initiate some specific federal policies by means of providing necessary information and support federal policies by means of participating in policy implementation (Marion, & Oliver, 2006, p. 357).

To make the situation clear, the following example should be considered. A federal government has adopted the law that people under specific age are prohibited to consume alcohol. The initiative was adopted by Congress and applied on the whole territory of the USA. Each state police department has perceived the information and it tries to implement it on its territory. Police reaction to the policy and its implementation is the state is a direct participation in criminal justice policy process.

Federal vs. State Courts’ Affect on the Implementation of Criminal Justice Policy

State and federal courts differ greatly, especially in the nature of cases they cope with. Being passive participants of policy development courts have an opportunity to take part in creation policies only when they are offered an appropriate case. The nature of the cases federal and state courts deal with presuppose the spheres they have an opportunity to create a policy in. This is the main difference which can be identified. There are both supporters and opponents of courts as policymakers.

Considering the similarities in the role of policymaking, state and federal governments have the following opportunities to take part in policy process. Courts play minor role in agenda setting, however, depending on the situation, both federal and state courts have an opportunity to interpret public policy originally if the appropriate case comes to the court. In other words, courts have the power to interpret different laws, especially in criminal justice, where “the decisions of the Supreme Court have affected the rights of both criminal and juvenile defendants and set expectations for law enforcement and corrections” (Marion, & Oliver, 2006, p. 375). These decisions may be used for treating similar cases for a long period of time. Such laws are usually called judge-made laws.

Having an opportunity for setting agenda and making policy, courts do not have an opportunity to participate in policy implementation. Courts are powerless in most cases when it gets about affecting national policy. One of the specific examples of court in the role of policymaking is Miranda Right, when criminals are protected from being interrogated without stating their rights and offering them an attorney (Marion, & Oliver, 2006). This rule was initiated by the court after a case when a person charged police in cruel treatment while interrogations and refusal to offer a layer.

Federal vs. State Corrections Impact on the Implementation of Criminal Justice Policy

Federal and state corrections do not differ greatly in their role in the implementation of criminal justice policy as they have similar purposes and operate in the similar way. It is obvious that federal corrections agencies and state correction agencies hold criminals convicted of federal and state institutes respectively. Dwelling specifically about the policy process, it should be stated that both federal and state corrections agencies impact it greatly, from the very first step up to its finish. These agencies on different levels have an opportunity to impact the stage of problem identification in the policy process (Marion, & Oliver, 2006). The main issues initiated are connected with prisoners’ rights, working and living conditions, etc.

The role of federal and state corrections agencies in setting agenda is to convince necessary legislators in the necessity to pay attention to the particular problem. American Civil Liberties Union is one of the organisations which searches for the problems which need decision and tries to encourage legislators to examine the problem in detail. Policy formulation is the stage in policy process. The role of corrections agencies consists in expressing opinion in the way how specific problems should be solved and which steps should be takes. All these issues should be discussed with the legislators. It should be stated that corrections agencies may be helpful in writing proposals as they are more aware of the problem and can better explain the solutions which should be used (Marion, & Oliver, 2006).

Policy implementation is one of the responsibilities of federal and state corrections agencies as well as the policy evaluation and reassessment. It is difficult to state whether policy is going to be useful in criminal justice or not until it is not tested practically. The policy cost effectiveness is difficult to judge until it is applied in practice (Marion, & Oliver, 2006). Thus, it may be concluded that federal and state corrections agencies perform similar roles in implementing criminal justice policy but operate on different levels (either government or state).

Conclusion: Differences and Similarities in the Role of Federal and State Government in Criminal Justice Policy Process

Therefore, it may be concluded that the role of the federal and state government in the implementation of criminal justice policy is similar, as federal and state agencies perform similar functions. Still, the spheres of impact and the control functions are different. Considering the problem of policy implementation and its relation to criminal justice system, it should be noted different agencies are aimed at performing absolutely different functions and seem to be disconnected. Nevertheless, deep consideration of the process of agenda setting, policymaking and implementation has shown that even though police, courts and corrections do not have the right for making policy as Congress has, the role of those agencies is crucial.

Reference List

Marion, N. E., & Oliver, W. M. (2006). The public policy of crime and criminal justice. Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Neubauer, D. W., & Fradella, H. F. (2010). America’s Courts and the Criminal Justice System. Stamford: Cengage Learning.

Orr, T. (2011). The Tenth Amendment: Limiting Federal Powers. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.

Travis, L. F. (2011). Introduction to Criminal Justice. Oxford: Elsevier.

Wright, R. F. (2006). Federal or state? Sorting as a sentencing choice. Criminal Justice, 21(2), 16-21.

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