Editor’s Note: This blog has been updated to reflect more current sources

No matter who you ask, and no matter where you are, there are countless views on how the American criminal justice system works. Some views are positive, saying it is what separates our country from others. Other views are less than flattering, saying how corrupt our legal system is. And with all the controversy, it’s hard not to wonder: How effective is the American criminal justice system?

The generally agreed-upon objective of the justice system is to uphold social control, deter and mitigate criminal activity, penalize and rehabilitate those individuals who violate the laws, and protect the rights of those who have been accused of crime. But the question for many, especially students in online criminal justice courses, is: Does our justice system reach these goals?

One complaint against the justice system is the countless delays and appeals that can occur in the courts, putting trials and sentencing off for months, if not years. With the ever-advancing realm of technology, another complaint is the possibility of wrongful conviction, with many cases being overturned in light of evidence made possible by new technology. Also, some people argue that criminal justice program budgeting could use a serious makeover to focus more on prevention rather than punishment and decrease the rampant overcrowding in many urban prisons.

With all the complaints about how ineffective our justice system is, there are two sides to the coin. Advocates of the American justice system point to falling crime rates as a sign of the effectiveness our legal system is having. According to an April 2016 article on The Atlantic.com, soaring crime rates in the 1990s have seen a precipitous decline in the 2000s.  Attribution for the dropping rates can be attributed to tough-on-crime platforms, increased employment rates, economic growth, even mass incarceration.1

Much like with any polarizing issue in today’s world, we will never come to a clear-cut consensus as to whether or not the criminal justice system in our country is effective. There will always be pros and cons, and the truth will lie in the eye of the beholder.

The real question: What do you think?

If you’re getting into criminal justice read about the five qualities you need to master before starting your career in Criminal Justice.

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