Nature and Purpose of Criminal Law

Nature and Purpose of Criminal Law

America is a democratic society, and in being a democratic society, the American citizens elect representatives in order to provide equality, justice and fairness in light of social control. Sociologists describe society as, “a group of people who share a culture and a territory” (Henslin, 2011). Considering this definition, America is a democratic society that values equality, justice, and fairness as a culture and elects representatives to protect these important cultural values in society. The nature and purpose of criminal law is to stand as a recognized symbol of value that every member of society must value in order to maintain the social environment. In this light criminal law maintains social control and the criminal justice system is created by society and given authority to maintain criminal law as the most important values of society.

Society provides law enforcement with the authority to maintain social control, and with authority society also provides power. Carter (2002) would suggest this power is the right to act, command, and make important decisions. In a democratic society, the community ultimately approves how law enforcement is to enforce criminal law; therefore, the police-community relationship is important, for the nature of law enforcement is to protect society by enforcing criminal law and maintaining social order. Since the nature of criminal law is to provide social control, law enforcement is an important component of socialization. Without an agent to enforce criminal law, society would be imbalanced.

Society provides the judicial system with the authority to interpret criminal law and the power to utilize criminal law to provide protection, equality, fairness, and due process to the members of society. Criminal law is created by society’s representatives in the form of statutes and codes. The judicial system reviews these statutes and codes to ensure the laws can be equally applied to each member of society. In this light, the judicial system is tasked to ensure fairness in criminal law and judicial procedure as well as criminal procedure in light of law enforcement. The judicial system is also given the power to punish citizens who violate criminal law. In determining punishments, the judicial system’s duty is to apply punishment equally and fairly; moreover, the judicial system must account for any discrepancies, biases, discrimination, or hardships concerning criminal law violations.

Society provides the correctional system with the authority to ensure each offender of criminal law completes criminal sanctions. The correctional system is tasked with carrying out the punishment of citizens who violate criminal law. In turn, this duty protects society and society’s values and serves as a main function of social control. The correctional system is also tasked with rehabilitating offenders before released back into society; therefore, corrective measures are taken according to the criminal offense. Probation and parole supervisors are tasked with weighing whether or not a criminal has been fully rehabilitated and may enter society.

From this aspect, social services provide important commitments to society by ensuring the health, safety, and rehabilitation of offenders and victim’s families. Social services also responds to social control requests outside of criminal law such as: fires, ambulance services, and rescue missions. Social services are a key aspect of order-maintenance, and law enforcement, the judicial system, and the correctional system are involved in providing these services. In order to maintain social control, social order must be maintained. Citizens who violate criminal law must be helped as well as the victims of crime.


Carter, D. L. (2002). The police and the community (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Henslin, J. M. (2011). Essentials of sociology: A down-to-earth approach (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

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