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Theorizing the Criminal Justice System: Four Models of Criminal Justice Development

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 38 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2013 Pages: 277-290
Roger Hopkins Burke
Date Published
September 2013
14 pages

This article discusses the nature of criminal justice systems in advanced liberal democracies and in whose interests they operates.


This article identifies and discusses four models that seek to explain the development of the criminal justice system and in whose interests it operates. Three existing, apparently competing, and contradictory models are identified: (1) the orthodox social progress model; (2) the radical conflict model; and (3) the carceral society surveillance model. This article introduces a fourth, the left realist hybrid model, which recognizes the strengths and complementary potential of the other three models and which proposes that a synthesis of all provides a more comprehensive explanatory tool. At the same time, this hybrid model importantly recognizes the interest and collusion of the general public in the creation of the increasingly pervasive sociocontrol surveillance matrix of the carceral society of which the contemporary criminal justice system is a central component. Abstract published by arrangement with Sage Journals.