Sample Criminal Justice Essays on The Systems Approach

The criminal justice system plays a key role in regulating society. However, checks and balances are essential to ensure the system works effectively. The execution of checks and balances requires a robust evaluation model. The evaluation of legal programs is a key process in ensuring an effective legal system. The system approach is a suitable model evaluating the criminal justice system because it outlines the key evaluation questions, analyzes that type of data that needs to be collected to respond to those questions, and gives information on how to manage the evaluation process.

Summary of The Systems Approach

The systems approach model enables stakeholders to examine the nature and quality of program implementation. Additionally, it evaluates processes to facilitates information regarding the implementation, delivery, and functioning of a program with the aim to improve processes (Hawkins & Weis, 2017). It is concerned with what occurs in practice, and usually focuses on the type of service delivery. The system approach also investigates how effectively resources are used to realize the stated objectives thus enables legal programs to be cost effective.

Why the Systems Approach is Most Applicable and Relevant

The systems approach focuses on several key aspects of a program therefore it highly effective and relevant. The first focus of evaluation is program integrity.  The systems approach is used to monitor the integrity of legal programs. This examination can help to verify that the stated target populations are receiving the required services, or the processes are being carried out as promised (Hawkins & Weis, 2017). The system approach is important since it is not restricted to assessing whether or how effectively the desired outcomes are realized. It considers other several variables that were not considered in the program development that can determine if a program meets its objectives. As such, it recognizes that it is possible for an initiative to be deployed with integrity, but fail to achieve its set targets due to the effect of unexpected variables. Systems approach helps to mitigate this issue by conducting a wider process evaluation.

The systems approach also evaluates the outcomes of a program. Such assessment is done to illustrate the degree to which the desired outcomes have been realized, or if the work-in-progress is geared towards achieving objectives. The results of the mentioned process help to argue for program continuation since it provides evidence that a program contributes to or is associated with positive change (Elias, 2017). Nonetheless, it is risky to attribute positive effects to the program alone. As such, the systems approach goes examines many variables that are external to the program.  Particularly, it measures program effectiveness in regards to short, medium, or long-term effects. The short-term effects include changes to the community or participants due to the initiative. Medium term effects encompass shifts in polices projects and plans due to changes to the community and participants. Examples of long-term effects are the essential changes in the governance, economic, environmental, and social priorities of the state. The evaluation of these outcomes helps in the development of a sustainable criminal justice program.

The last aspect assessed by the systems approach is cost and efficiency. The aim of this evaluation is to respond to questions about costs of an initiative in comparison to either the initiative’s effectiveness or benefits in regards to the changes it may have instigated (Hawkins & Weis, 2017). It measures the relative effectiveness, costs, and benefits of criminal justice programs and can have a significant impact on future funding priorities as well as decisions about the direction of programs (Welsh & Harris, 2016). The terms “cost-effectiveness analysis” and “cost-benefit analysis”, are usually applied interchangeably. Nonetheless, whereas they determine similar aspects, they facilitate different information to be used separately. The systems approach enables the distinction of these terms to come up with precise measurements. It helps with the identification of costs and benefits related to the social outcomes of crime. While costs are measured in terms of dollars, benefits are usually determined in physical units (for example, number of offenders not in custody). The measurement of relative cost effectiveness is important in the creation of government policies.

The Effectiveness of Systems Approach in Evaluating Juvenile Reform Programs

The systems approach is a useful tool for state officers who prepare, commission, and execute juvenile-centered initiatives, whether they are new to the system or already have experience. It helps to complement relevant policies, frameworks, templates, and procedures that individual agencies have developed for project management or evaluation. The model helps juvenile program managers understand how an effort functions to enable them to make informed changes to induce improved outcomes (Peterson-Badali, Skilling, & Haqanee, 2015). Rather than taking a prescriptive approach to juvenile justice program evaluation, the systems approach encourages the evaluation project team to apply good judgment in matching the methods and scope of evaluation with the objectives of juvenile justice programs and the needs of certain evaluations.


The systems approach is an effective evaluation model because it outlines the key evaluation questions, analyzes that type of data that needs to be collected to respond to those questions, and gives information on how to manage the evaluation process. It is applicable since it analyzes different aspects of a legal program like the integrity and cost. Further, it examines whether a project suits the needs of the users. It is especially applicable in the assessment of juvenile justice programs since it managers understand how an effort functions to enable them to make informed changes to induce improved outcomes. The system approach can be used to develop a robust legal system.



Elias, R. (2017). Victims of the System. Routledge.

Hawkins, J. D., & Weis, J. G. (2017). The social development model: An integrated approach to delinquency prevention. In Developmental and Life-course Criminological Theories (pp. 3-27). Routledge.

Peterson-Badali, M., Skilling, T., & Haqanee, Z. (2015). Examining implementation of risk assessment in case management for youth in the justice system. Criminal Justice and Behavior42(3), 304-320.

Welsh, W. N., & Harris, P. W. (2016). Criminal Justice Policy and Planning: Planned Change. Routledge.