Criminal Law Essays – Comparing UK and US criminal justice systems.

Here is an example of a criminal law essay:


As the world rate of crime sores, criminal justice system has been changing over the time to align with the changing nature of crime.  The criminal justice system in the world follows the same model. In most countries, the criminal justice system is made up of the police force which ensures observance of the law, the court system which interprets the law and the correction system which holds individuals to correct the behaviors. In most countries, the criminal justice correction models follows classicist and positivist approaches which calls for severe punishment and correction respectively. However, there are provisions which have been instituted especially in regard to juveniles in the correction system.

This paper will review the correction system in the U.S and compare it with the correction system in the UK. The paper will look into different factors in the criminal justice system including the system, institution, management, population incarcerated, the level of security, like in prison, constitutional amendments, rehabilitation system, parole, and many others.

Overview of incarceration in the United States

In the US criminal justice system, the offenders who have been convicted of a crime are held to in correction institutions. After going through the court system and convicted beyond reasonable shadow of doubts that they have in deed committed a crime, they are then handed over to the correction authorities where they are then taken to prisons.

Prisons are therefore the main correction institutions. They are mainly used for detention of prisoners while jails used to hold the accused.  In the United States, the Quaker movement is usually credited with having reformed the prisons to serve as correction facilities(Champion, 2004).  In the United States, imprisonment is used as a form of punishment for those who have been convicted of felonies while those who are convicted of misdemeanor are held in local jails. Local jails are managed by the local authority. The federal and state prison which are managed by the federal and state government are therefore used to contain individuals who have been convicted of more serious crimes like felonies. There are also more than 264 private prisons in the United stats.  The United States has the highest of incarceration in the world.   It also has the highest number of documented individuals in the world.  By 2007, there were more than 7.2 million people in the US correction system (Champion, 2004). Of this number, 2.3 million were incarcerated while others were under probation or parole.  By 2008, 1 in ever 100 American adult were incarcerated.

Order Now

Due to the rising number of prisoner, the US government has been coming up with important changes in the correction system. For individual convicted of minor crimes, they are usually given alternative sanctions like community correction or halfway houses, house arrest, probation, and reinstitutions. (Champion, 2004)

On mater of security, the US correction system operations under various levels of security. The federal and state prisons are offered a higher level of security of Supermax facilities. This level of security is offered to the well known facility which houses top level criminals. On the other hand, low level security or minimum security is given in facilities housing non-violent offenders.

Comparing incarceration in the United Kingdom to that of United States

There is not major difference between the prison system in the UK and US. However their ideology in correction system has been changing over time. While the US correction system emphasize on punishment, the UK system is slipping more towards the due process and correction system for convicts (Questionline, 2009). However, comparing the two systems, the UK correction system has a very low rate of incarceration compared to the United States. However, the UK system is faced by a major challenge of providing enough facilities for incarceration and this could be one of the key factors that have led to low rate of incarceration. For example in 2007, more than 25,000  prisoners who were serving a jail term of more than four years were  given Get Out of Jail Free  which was 18 days early to the expiry of their jail term in order to provide 15,000 cells needed to incarcerate dangers criminals. Compared to the incarceration rates in the US, the UK rates are much lower. While there are more than 2.3 million people behind bars in the US there are only 80,000 behind bars in the UK, both in England and Wales (BBC, 2008).

In terms of institutions, the UK has almost similar correction facilities like US. The main correction facilities are prison and jails. Prisons are used to contain the convicted while jails are used to hold the accused.   The UK juvenile criminal justice system has come up with youth courts and juvenile detention centers which handle convicts less than 18 years. Unlike in the US, the UK does not have juvenile boot camps which are used to correct the juvenile offenders

Like in the US, the correction facilities are managed by the government and the private sector.  Management of prison in the UK has been highly privatized. All the private prisons are regularly inspected by Her Majesty. There are more than 12 private prisons in the UK which are managed by private companies compared to more than 264 private prisons in the US.

Like in the US, there UK prisons have different levels of security.  There are high level security prison and low level security prisons. High level security prisons are those which incarcerate individuals convicted of felonies and other major crimes. On the other hand, low level security prisons incarcerate individuals who are convicted of misdemeanor and other minor crimes. Life in UK prison is more like life in US prisons. Hard life is no longer practices in UK prisons. Prisoners in both countries have access to mobile phones, TVs, newspaper and others. They spend few hours in their cells.  The correction system UK has also established the National Probation Service which falls under the Department of Justice. The UK probation is tied with the community services for those who are convicted of minor offense. Currently 70% of the offenders on probation are under community sentence while more than 30% of those who have been serving a long term in prison are on probation. (National Probation Service, 2003)

Like in the US, the prisoners are given some basic human rights under the constitution.  In UK, the Human Rights Act 1998 made is a crime for a public body to act in a way that is contrary the EU human rights charter. Being part of public body, it means that prisoners incarcerated in UK prisons were given basic human rights. However, UK prisoners are denied some rights like voting, and others.

Comparing the two criminal systems, I would say that the UK correction system is better than the US system. The US system is more oriented towards the containment of individuals to correct their behaviors while the UK system is geared toward correction through integration with the community.  The general approach to crime and punishment should be changed in the US to reflect the UK approach of correction rather than containment of the individual.


The criminal justice system is important in the society to ensure that there is fair trial and correction of individuals. The correction system ensures that the convicts are put under containment or supervision to monitor the change in their behavior.  There are some similarities between the US and UK correction system but the US system has shown a higher rate of incarceration compared to UK.  Both countries have both government managed and private managed correction systems.  There are minor difference between the two systems mainly in the general approach to crime and punishment where the UK system is leaned towards correction of individual convicts.  The UK system therefore seems more superior to US system since it does not lead to increased incarceration.


BBC, (2008). UK prison now over capacity. Retrieved 23rd January 2009 from

Champion, D. (2004). Corrections in the United States: A contemporary perspective. Prentice Hall

National Probation Service, (2003).  Community  sentencing  – reducing offending , changing lives. Ministry of Justice, UK

Questionline, (2009). Prison and probation services. Retrieved 23rd January 2009 from


You can get  your criminal law essay done. Order Here:

Order Now

One thought on “Criminal Law Essays – Comparing UK and US criminal justice systems.”

Comments are closed.