Acquit: Absolve a person legally from an accusation of criminal guilt

Actus reus: Criminal act

Adjudication: Term for “trial” in juvenile proceedings

Agenda setting: The way the media draw the public’s eye to a specific topic

Aggravating factors: Circumstance accompanying the commission of the crime that increases its seriousness

Amicus curiae brief: This brief is filed by interested persons or organizations who are not parties to the suit in order to educate or persuade the court

August Vollmer: Pioneer for police professionalism

Banishment: The sending away, by court order, of an individual from a community

Bills of attainder: Laws that are directed at named individual or group of individuals and has the effect of declaring them guilty without a trial

Bridewell: An early form of a jail. Bridewells and workhouses were synonymous with work output from the inhabitants, during a stent of servitude.

Capital offenses: Crimes punishable by the death penalty

Case law: Body of law made up of judicial rulings that are potentially binding on the current controversy

Celerity: Swiftness, how quickly is someone to be punished if they commit a crime

Certainty: The likelihood that an outcome will occur (how certain is someone to be caught if they commit a crime)

Child-saving movement: Emerged in an effort to change the way the state was dealing with dependent, neglected, and delinquent children

Civil forfeiture: Taking of property used in or obtained through unlawful activities through a civil lawsuit

Civil wrong: Private lawsuit brought to enforce private rights and to remedy violations of private rights

Civilian law enforcement employees: An employee who has not been through police training and does not have arresting powers

Collective incapacitation: Incarceration of large groups of individuals to remove their ability to commit crimes (in society) for a set amount of time in the future

Commissioned law enforcement employees: An employee that has been through police training is certified as a police officer and has arresting powers in the state

Community era: Police and communities began to work together

Concurrence: Requirement that the actus reus (criminal act) joins with the mens rea (criminal intent) to produce criminal conduct.

Conflict view: Society is a collection of diverse groups and the creation of laws is unequal

Consensus view: Implies consensus among citizens on what should and should not be illegal

Corporal punishment: Physical punishment

Cost-benefit evaluations: Seeks to determine if the costs of a policy are justified by the benefits accrued

Crime control model: An efficient system with the most important function being to suppress and control crime to ensure that society is safe and there is public order

Crime prevention: Any action designed to reduce the actual level of crime and/or the perceived fear of crime

Crime: The violation of the laws of a society by a person or a group of people who are subject to the laws of that society

Criminal justice system: A major social institution that is tasked with controlling crime in various ways

Criminal wrongs: Act (or failure to act) that violates norms of a community that is prescribed by some penal law (statute, code, common law) and is punishable by some term of confinement; offense against the law of the state.

Criminalized act: When a deviant act becomes criminal and law is written, with defined sanctions, that can be enforced by the criminal justice system

Criminogenic needs: Are items that when changed, can lower an individual’s risk of offending. They include items like prior criminal history, antisocial attitudes, antisocial (pro-criminal) friends, a lack of education, family or marital problems, a lack of job stability, substance abuse, and personality characteristics (mental health and antisocial personality)

Critical stages: Any step in the criminal justice process that is so important to a just outcome that the Supreme Court has attached to it specific due process rights

Dark figure of crime: Crimes that the police are not aware of

De novo review: A trial de novo is a complete retrial of a case, usually before a higher court, which negates the initial tribunal’s decision

Delinquent: Term for “criminal” or “guilty” for juvenile proceedings

Deterrence: A philosophical underpinning or punishment ideology that is “the reduction of offending (and future offending) through the sanction or threat of sanction.” It can be divided into general deterrence and specific deterrence.

Deviance: Behavior that departs from the social norm

Direct supervision: No barriers between the inmates and the staff

Discretionary waiver: Allows a judge to transfer a juvenile from juvenile court to adult criminal court

Disposition: Term for “sentence” for juvenile proceedings

Disproportionate minority contact: Occurs when the proportion of youth of color who pass through the juvenile justice system exceeds the proportion of youth of color in the general population

Diversion: Generally, a contract between the prosecutor and the defendant in which the defendant agrees to perform certain conditions, the successful completion of which results in a dismissal of the case or charges

Due process model: Focuses on having a just and fair criminal justice system for all and a system that does not infringe upon constitutional rights

Due process: Procedural rights established in the Constitution, especially in the Bill of Rights

Enumerated power: Powers of Congress specifically named or designated in the Constitution

Ethics: The understanding of what constitutes good or bad behavior and helps guide our behaviors

Evidence-based practices: Utilize the scientific method to assess the effectiveness of interventions, policies, and programs

Ex Parte Crouse: Case where the court declared that failed parents lose their rights to raise their children

Ex post facto laws: Laws that make an act criminal after it is committed. Article I Sec. 9 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from enacting criminal laws that apply retroactively.

Fear of crime: The anxiety or fear that is produced by the perception that one will become a victim to crime or criminals

Felony: Serious crime that is generally punishable by one year or more in prison or by capital punishment (death penalty)

Folk devils: The people who are blamed for being allegedly responsible for the threat to society

Folkways: Behaviors that are learned and shared by a social group

Framing: A type of agenda setting in a prepackaged way

Free will: The ability to make choices about their future actions, like choosing when to offend and not offend

General deterrence: Deterrence (sanction or threat of a sanction) that is geared the general reduction of committing future crimes for all, not someone specifically. It is meant to teach all a lesson

Grass eaters: Police officers who accept benefits

Hedonism: The assumption that people will see maximum pleasure and avoid pain, or punishment

Hedonistic calculus: The desire for pleasurable items or outcomes, over painful ones

Homeland security era: Focused concentration of its resources into crime control enforcement of laws in order to expose potential threats and gather intelligence

House of Refuge: An urban establishment used to corral youth who were roaming the street unsupervised or who have been referred by the courts

Hulks: Large ships that would transport criminals (usually people that were banished) to a far away location

Immigration: The internal migration of people and the external movement of people from other countries

Impact evaluations: Focuses on what changes after the introduction of the crime policy

Implied power: Authority not expressly conferred by a principal upon an agent, but arising out of the language or course of conduct of the principal toward the agent.

Incapacitation: The removal of an individual (from society), for a set amount of time, so as they cannot commit crimes (in society) for an amount of time in the future

Inchoate crimes: Parital crime, i.e: attempt

Indirect supervision: A barrier of glass, or other separation, in a common area

Industrialization: The shift in work from agricultural jobs to more manufacturing work

Infractions: Minor criminal offense, which is generally punishable by only a monetary sanction

Interactionist view: The definition of crime reflects the preferences and opinions of people who hold social power in a particular legal jurisdiction

Jail: A facility used for individuals who are in the custody of a legal arm of a state (or subsidiary)

Judicial review: Review of a legislative, judicial, or executive branch action or law by the courts to see if it complies with the constitution

Judicial waiver: Affords the juvenile court judge the authority to transfer a case to adult criminal court

Jurisdiction: Authority of a court to hear and decide a particular case

Kin policing: A tribe or clan police their own tribe

Laws: Form of social control that outlines rules, habits, and customs a society uses to enforce conformity to its norms

Legislative waiver: Identifies certain offenses which have been mandated by state law to be excluded from juvenile court jurisdiction, also known as statutory waiver

Lex talionis: The term for “law of talion” or law of retaliation. It prescribes that the punishments should fit the crime committed (proportional)

Mala in se: Crime is inherently evil or bad

Mala prohibita: Act is criminal because it is prohibited, not necessarily evil

Mandatory waiver: A juvenile judge must automatically transfer to adult court juvenile offenders who meet certain criteria, such as age and current offense

Meat eaters: Police officers that expect some tangible item personally from those served in order to do their job

Mens rea:  The knowledge or intent of wrongdoing

Misdemeanor: Minor crimes for which the penalty is usually less than one year in jail or a fine.

Mitigating factors: Circumstances or factors that tend to lessen culpability.

Moral panic: A situation in which public fears and state interventions greatly exceed the objective threat posed to society by  a particular individual or group who is/are claimed to be responsible for creating the threat

Moral wrong: Category of criminal conduct intended to protect the family and social institutions

Mores: Norms of morality, or right and wrong

Narratives: The story that is told

New generation jails: Podular, Design of a jail or facility where the doors face an interior day use or common area, making the cells visible to a jail deputy from one location

Noble-cause: The goal that most officers have to make the world a better and safer place to live

Offense: Act committed or omitted in violation of law forbidding or commanding

Official statistics: Represent the total number of crimes reported to the police or the number of arrests made by that agency

Older generation jails: Linear,  Design of a jail or facility that is basically a long corridor
with cell doors facing the hallway/corridor

Parens patriae: The king is responsible for and in charge of everything involving youth

Petition: Term for “indictment” for juvenile proceedings

Plain error: The rule applies to errors that are obvious, that affect substantial rights of the
accused, and that, if uncorrected, will seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings

Police power: Power of a government to legislate to protect public health, safety, welfare and morality

Political era: First era of policing in the United States marked by the industrial revolution, the abolishment of slavery, and the formation of large cities

Positivism: The use of empirical evidence through scientific inquiry to improve society

Presumptive sentences: Sentencing structure under which a particular sentence is presumed to be typical for a particular offense

Presumptive waiver: Juvenile has the burden of proof that they should remain in juvenile court

Principle of orality: Principle in law that only evidence developed and presented during the course of a trial may be considered by the jurors during deliberation

Pro se: Acting as one’s own defense attorney in a criminal proceeding; representing oneself without retaining an attorney

Process evaluations: Considers the implementation of a policy or program and involve determining the procedure used to implement the policy

Prosecutorial waiver: The legislature grants a prosecutor the discretion to determine in which court to file charges against the juvenile

Punishment ideology: A belief structure about how and how severe a person should be punished

Rational: Ability to see and make choices that a normal person could see and make

Recidivism: The reoffending of someone that has been convicted of a crime. This can come in the form of re-arrest, a new charge, a new conviction (for a felony or misdemeanor), or the re-commitment of a offender into an institution

Reform era: Start of diversity in policing

Reform schools: Housing used to hold delinquent and dependent children

Rehabilitation: Changing of offenders behaviors, so that they are not committing crimes in the future

Retribution: A philosophical underpinning or punishment ideology that is geared toward “a balance for past harm.” It is the only backward-looking punishment ideology.

Rule of law: Principle that the law, and not one person or group of persons, is the highest authority

Rule of lenity: Principle that when judges apply a criminal statute they must follow the clear letter of the statute and resolve all ambiguities in favor of the defendant (and against the application of the statute)

Selective incapacitation: Targeting specific individuals (with longer sentences) to remove their ability to commit crimes (in society) for longer periods of time

Self-reported statistics: Individuals report the number of times they have committed a particular crime during a set period of time

Severity: The level or punitiveness of a punishment. Prison is more severe than probation

Sir Robert Peel: Father of modern policing, created the first British police force

Social disorganization: The inability of social institutions to control an individual’s behavior

Specific deterrence: Deterrence (sanction or threat of a sanction) that is geared toward an individual, designed to keep that person specifically from committing future crimes

Stare decisis: Body of law made up of judicial rulings that are potentially binding on the current controversy

Status offenses: Offenses that are only illegal because of the age of the offender

Strain theories: People commit crime because of strain, stress, or pressure

Strict liability crime: Criminal liability based only on the commission of a prohibited act. The state does not have to prove the defendant had any particular mens rea.

Superpredator: Youth so impulsively violent, remorseless, and have no respect for human life

Taboo: Very negative norm that upsets people

Theory: An explanation to make sense of our observations about the world

Urban cohorts: Men from the Praetorian Guard (Augustus’ army), charged with ensuring peace in the city

Urbanization: Cities increasing in population

Victimization studies: Ask people if they have been a victim of crime in a given yet

Vigils: People under the ruling of Augustus who were charged with fighting crime and fires

Workhouse: An early form of a jail. Workhouses and bridewells were synonymous with work output from the inhabitants, during a stent of servitude.

Writ of certiorari: Writ issued by the higher court agreeing to review a case

Writ of habeas corpus: Remedy sought by a person requesting release from an allegedly illegal or unconstitutional confinement


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Introduction to the U.S. Criminal Justice System Copyright © 2019 by Alison S. Burke, David Carter, Brian Fedorek, Tiffany Morey, Lore Rutz-Burri, and Shanell Sanchez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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