The criminal justice system is a complex network of agencies and individuals who work together to protect the public. The police provide law enforcement; the courts make decisions about guilt or innocence, and corrections house the convicted.
The police are responsible for enforcing laws, investigating crime, and keeping the peace. Police officers patrol their communities and respond to calls for service from citizens. They also conduct investigations into crimes such as theft, burglary, and assault. Police officers use various tools to enforce laws, including guns, tasers, handcuffs, and pepper spray. When an officer suspects that someone has committed a crime, he or she may arrest them and take them into custody until they can be brought before a judge to hear the charges against them.
The courts deal with all legal issues, including civil cases such as divorce or contract disputes as well as criminal cases like theft or murder. When someone is accused of committing a crime, they go through several stages in court before either being found innocent or guilty by a jury. In some cases, instead of going through the full procedure in court, defendants may be offered alternative sentences such as community service instead of going to prison.
Corrections refer to every aspect of managing offenders after they have been convicted of breaking the law — including pretrial detention, supervision by probation officers and parole officers, halfway houses, and treatment centers for mentally ill offenders.