Criminal Justice Indiviual Project

Criminal Justice Individual Project

The criminal justice system is comprised of three components – i.e. police, courts and corrections.  These components have become one of the most common themes on prime time television.  This paper lists some of the television shows that depict the components of the criminal justice system and analyzes how fairly they have been represented.


The police is primarily responsible of deterring and probing crimes.  The latter function is the main focus of the New Detectives and FBI Files, television shows which are aired on the Discovery channel.  These shows tackle how the police enforcement agencies solve myriad crimes by using the latest methods of forensic investigation.  From clothing fibers, hair strands or pet fur, investigators are able to efficiently analyze the crime scenes and accurately derive what actually took place and who the culprits are.  These Discovery shows depict a positive image of the police as they exhibit how the detectives and other police agencies are unceasing in their pursuit for justice and put guilty persons behind bars.  Given that the segments of the shows are based on actual cases, they also fairly represent the criminal justice system.  Although only re-enactments of the case are shown, the enforcers and other experts involved in investigating the cases are interviewed so the accounts are kept as accurate as possible.  These shows clearly reveal how the system goes as far as investigating and solving criminal cases are concerned.

Another well-watched television show that adopts the police force as its main theme is CSI.  Due to the high ratings of and viewer interest generated by the initial program, CSI: Las Vegas, spinoffs like CSI: Miami and CSI: New York were launched by CBS.  Similar to the detective shows in the Discovery channel, CSI centers on forensic investigation.  In the show, the detectives use modern photographic, audio and medical technology in order to process evidences gathered from the crime scene.  Once again, this program optimistically portrays the police force, specifically the CSI, because it shows a team of dedicated investigators thinking proactively to solve the mind-boggling cases.  Furthermore, it shows that although there may be emotional conflicts between the characters, science prevails and the protagonists stand by their findings.

Some police investigators, however, are criticizing the show due to the unrealistic undertaking of the foreign examination.  In the show, there is often a quick identification of suspects by utilizing fictional computer database.  According to them, forensic examinations are conducted meticulously and usually take time to complete (“Wikipedia”).  Moreover, others complain that criminals have become smarter with the advent of the show.  In this regard, there is fair representation in terms of the conflicts confronted by the law enforcers.  However, the methodology may be far too advanced.

COPS, a pioneer in reality television, is another show that depicts the criminal justice stage of maintaining public order while on patrol or during entrapment operations.  This reality television show perfectly illustrates how people in law enforcement risk their lives while on duty and their commitment to uphold social order.  Given that the scenes are filmed as they actually happen, this show fairly represents the police force.  Along with the actual footage, the people involved are also featured to give an account of the police operations.

This show is also criticized by some people as biased since it focuses on the criminal activities among the poor (“Wikipedia”).  Such may send negative signals to the viewers.  Moreover, the show does not feature “white-collar crimes.”  Producers explain that they shoot as events happen, as such, they do not have the privilege of time to select which criminal activity to shoot.


The setting of court-room dramas is usually in the district courts where civil and criminal trials take place.  The Practice is one show centered upon the clash between moral and legal dilemma.  The show featured defense lawyers who are always contemplating on this theme.  Law & Order is another example where the show is divided into two major parts.  This show presents what happens during investigation and when the case is already in court.  The Practice and Law & Order both present stages of pre-trial and actual trial.  They illustrate the rudiments of the legal procedure.

In general, they positively depict and fairly represent the criminal justice system as they show that in the courtroom, judges and jury make well-founded decisions.  No matter how emotionally electrified a trial is, the judge and jury strive to maintain objectivity in order to uphold the majesty of the law, even to the detriment of protagonists.  On the other hand, these court-room dramas negatively portray the justice system in a way, particularly the jury.  In some scenes, lawyers find a way on how to get the jury on their side by appealing to their emotions.  In this regard, jurors are portrayed as irrational people who could be influenced by such appeal.  Moreover, some people cited that lawyers acting as pseudo-detectives are not common in real life (“Wikipedia”).

In the same way as COPS features actual police operations, Court TV shows real court-room proceedings.  In view of its nature, this show presents real legal trials.  As in most cases, it takes time when decisions are laid down.  Furthermore, as it happens in real life, those perceived as “disadvantaged” may not always get the better half of the judge’s decision.


HBO’s Oz, which ran from 1997 to 2003, depicts the life of prisoners in the Oswald State Correctional Facility.  The show, characterized by violence scenes and vulgar language, featured the rivalries between different prison gangs that often result to murder and revenge.  This is a negative depiction of the correctional component because Oz highlighted the inability of correctional officers to control the inmates and their gangs.  It could be considered as a reasonable portrayal of the correctional system because scenes featured in the show actually happens in real life.  Aside from the actual prison setting, some studies show that myriad forms of violence and drug use happens within the walls of the prison.

One notable episode in CSI: Las Vegas that gives a positive image of the criminal justice system is about a man who was sentenced to die through lethal education due to the brutal killing of a college student.  In light of the new evidence gathered (hair strand), the man was revived seconds after the sentence was carried out.  Members of the correctional system present during the execution took immediate steps to spare the man’s life until the DNA fingerprinting of the hair strand found was completed.  Re-opening of cases after years of incarceration happens especially now that modern technology makes forensic investigation relatively more accurate.  This episode also shows that criminal justice system values the life of the innocent or wrongfully accused and undertakes corrective measures for judicial shortcomings.

Another show that tackles the correctional component is Street Time that ran from 2002 to 2003.  This program is about the parole program where parolees are experiencing “life on the outside.”  This show provides an upbeat image of the correctional system because it exhibits how parolees are assisted in rebuilding their lives and closely monitored by their parole officers to ensure that their actions are fitting for the society.  Furthermore, the show presents episodes wherein parole officers are confronted with the violence of the offenders on parole.  This is similar to what happens in real life.

Assignment Type Discussion Board

  1. According to the definition of justice you provided, was this sentence just? Why or why not?

I believe that justice is the appropriate administration of law.  In light of this definition, the sentence is deemed just.  Assuming that the case facts are complete, I believe that Dale Parak is guilty of first degree manslaughter given the act and accompanying intent.  However, Dale, if proven that he has no gains whatsoever from the death of his brother, has done such crime out of mercy for the condition of his brother.  As such, he deserves the lowest level of sentence for the commitment of such crime.

  1. If you were the prosecutor in this case, would you have charged Dale Parak? Why?

As the prosecutor, I would have charged Dale Parak in the same manner.  This is because Dale Parak has clearly committed a crime, which aside from the act itself, is accompanied by intent.  As a rational person, he has the knowledge that such act is illegal.  They even drafted a contract prior to committing the crime to express that the brothers both consented to such acts.  However, such contract does not deem the supreme law to be invalid or unenforceable.

  1. If you were the judge in this case, how would you have sentenced Dale Parak? Why?

As the judge, I would have sentenced Dale Parak with the lowest sentence for this type of crime.  This is because he had admitted to be the one responsible for the death of his brother.  I believe that the primary purpose for sending a criminal to jail is to reform him/her.  In line with the case facts, Dale Parak needs minimum reformation.  As mentioned, Dale has done this with expressed consent of his brother and out of mercy for his condition.  If this means that he has no gains from his brother’s death, then he deserves the minimum sentence.


Wikipedia.  26 July 2005 <>

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