What Are the Two Models of Criminal Justice?

In 1968, legal scholar Herbert Packer described the two aspects of administering criminal justice in the United States. The first model, due process--which believes in the rights of individuals--is politically liberal. The second model, crime control, supports the regulation of criminal conduct and behaviour.

It's politically conservative. Political climate and societal unrest in the country very often determines which policy the criminal justice system is following at the time. Whatever model may prevail, criminal justice must enforce laws, maintain and control social order, and it protects individuals from injustices.

Crime Control

Described by Packer as "assembly-line justice," the crime control model believes in the presumption of guilt. If an individual has been arrested and charged with a crime, they, must be presumed guilty and should be punished for their actions. This model believes the control of criminal behaviour is the most important function of criminal justice.

Due Process

In contrast, the due process model believes in the presumption of innocence. Any person charged with a crime should not be deprived of their unalienable rights. Described by Packer as looking "very much like an obstacle course," the principal goal of due process is that, unless individuals pose a threat to society, they should be allowed to remain free until they are found guilty. The principal goal of criminal justice is to protect the innocent and convict the guilty.

Police Activity

Crime control supports the reliability of police fact-finding, and there should be few limitations of how police attempt to fight crime. By treating arrestees as if they have already been found guilty, cases could quickly be moved through the criminal justice system and brought to a quick resolution.

The due process model believes police activity is critical to maintaining justice within society. However, police authority should be limited to prevent official coercion or unfairness to the individual. Authorities should be held accountable to procedures and guidelines to ensure fairness and consistency in the criminal justice process.

Criminal Process

Crime control prefers plea bargaining to jury trials. Expanded use of pretrial detection can encourage guilty offenders to plead guilty, there should be more technological advances in electronic surveillance, DNA samples should be taken shortly after birth, and appeals should be strongly discouraged and limited.

The due process believes limitations on how police combat crime should stay in place or even get expanded. DNA samples should only be taken from booked suspects, not individuals who have never been charged with a crime. The grand jury is perceived as a rubber stamp for prosecutors and should be eliminated. There should be no limitations on the right to appeal.

Future Possibilities

Neither model will completely dominate criminal justice. Controlling and alleviating corruption will remain the primary goal, while questions will arise as to whether resources should be devoted to punishment or rehabilitation. Crime control is based on factual guilt while due process is based upon legal guilt. Whatever system prevails, there are guidelines and restrictions which must be respected and followed in the criminal justice system.