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The study of the history of criminal justice is a challenging one. The truth is that we can never know just how it began, because criminal justice, in some form or another, has been present forever.
The concepts of right and wrong have been around since before humans began recording history.
And since then, people have been occupied with the task of enforcing laws, rules, ordinances, and commandments.
The apprehension, detainment, conviction or release, incarceration, and punishment for law breakers are the facets that make up the foundation of criminal justice and they have been employed for thousands of years.
In the following sections, we'll take a look at the recorded history of criminal justice and its ancient practices around the world.
You'll also learn modern criminal justice history and how it has affected and formed how we go about fighting justice and keeping the peace today.
Here's a glimpse of criminology history as it was used in society in a variety of places across the world.
China - Ancient Chinese criminal justice was carried out by appointed law-keepers called prefects. Prefects had regions of geography throughout the kingdom they were in charge of.
Below the prefects were sub-prefects and various other enforcers to aid in smaller portions of these great regions.
Developed in both the Chu and Jin kingdoms, the prefecture system reported to the magistrate and carried out the local law. Different prefects had different jobs, some acting in more bureaucratic roles, while others worked more as modern day detectives.
Ancient Greece - Unlike the prefecture system in Ancient China, Greece and Rome had very different views on criminal justice than we do today.
Justice and retribution were more private matters than public ones, and it was generally up to the victim's family (especially in the case of murder) to decide the fate of the perpetrator.
Colonial America - While the origins of modern day criminal justice can be found all around the world during the last several thousand years, it was during the Colonial American era that today's law and order system had begun to solidify into something we would carry with us to the present.
They used the common law system to solve disputes, which included a list of rules to follow.
They also were the first to differentiate between two types of crime: felony and misdemeanor.
Today we mostly employ a law and order system that is based on early European and Colonial American legal structures.
We get our police officer system from seventeenth century France, jails and prisons from almost every culture throughout time, and the judiciary from a variety of places but mostly modeled after English culture.
Most of us consider modern criminal justice to be a fairly effectual system, allowing us to punish the criminals and free the innocent.
However, it is anything but a perfect system.
There are raging debates that have been going on for a long time and show no signs of stopping about numerous ethics in criminal justice, such as:
Will criminal justice history ever become a study of a perfect structure? Probably not.
As long as the people are in charge, there will be some who disagree with how things are done. But, then again, the alternative isn't exactly appetizing.
We make do with what we've got and hope that we are right far more often than we are wrong.
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