Looking for the Law: ACJS Program Certification Standards and Introductory Criminal Justice Textbooks
33 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2013
Date Written: December 19, 2012
Comprehending the United States system of government, its primary law sources and the decision-making process of its courts is essential foundational knowledge for criminal justice students. The ACJS Certification Standards for Baccalaureate College/University Criminal Justice Programs (2005) include Law Adjudication, with the identified related content topics of “[c]riminal law, criminal procedures, prosecution, defense, and court processes and decision-making” (p. 9), a recognition of the importance of these content areas.
The ACJS recommendations are not radical ideas. Anderson, Reinsmith-Jones, and Mangels (2011) propose that the addition of legal knowledge and techniques to the traditional criminal justice methodology will provide a triangulated approach strengthening the criminal justice discipline. This suggestion is based on their recognition that “the law is the main catalyst and foundation governing both criminology and criminal justice” (p. 97). Integrating basic legal concepts into introductory courses would similarly strengthen the foundational knowledge of students in the discipline.
With the ACJS standards as a framework, this study examines the coverage and depth of treatment in introductory criminal justice textbooks of concepts related to these basic categories of legal knowledge. The study has operationalized these topic areas as: the roles of the three branches of government, the separation of powers among the branches, the levels of government, the hierarchical organization of the court system between trial and appellate courts and state and federal courts and the differences between criminal and civil law, enacted law and common law and the primary sources of law.
Keywords: legal concepts, primary law, textbook, introductory criminal justice course, ACJS standards
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation