Common Myths About the Criminal Justice System

It seems America has an obsession with crime and criminals. With hundreds of movies, television shows and books designed around this industry, it’s no surprise that millions are interested in pursuing a career within the criminal justice system. If you’re considering a move into this challenging and reward industry, there are several myths you must understand are nothing more than media hype and misunderstandings. In order to gain a better understanding of this dynamic industry, take a moment to review the top common criminal justice system myths propagated across the internet.

Myth #1 – Investigations Are Dangerous and Result in Shootouts and Car Chases

While this is definitely a possibility for some professionals involved within the criminal justice system, it is far from commonplace. To help clarify this myth, let’s take a look at the latest statistics involving gun-related deaths caused during an investigation. Out of the 92 police officers that died while in the line of duty in 2013, only 47 of these were killed intentionally – or during a shootout. Have images of police chases causing car accidents and violence throughout neighborhood streets? Unfortunately, this is far from the case. 96 percent of police departments carefully pursue suspects while 40 percent of law enforcement agencies end high-speed chases the moment a suspect has been identified. This means, once the driver and occupants are identified, the chase ends and other methods of capture are used.

Myth #2 – Fingerprint Identification is the Best Way to Catch a Criminal

While TV shows convey fingerprinting as the “go to” for solving crimes, this is far from the truth. In fact, only one in four criminal lab investigations include workable fingerprints. Moreover, just to give an idea of how this little piece of evidence is relied upon, there are nearly 2,000 mistaken fingerprint matches in the United States per year. Therefore, criminal investigators must rely on far more than a fingerprint left on a coffee mug to solve a crime.

Myth #3 – Our Streets Are Filled With Serial Killers

While the notion of serial killers lurking among civilians on the subway make for an excellent crime novel, the truth is far less intriguing. In fact, less than one percent of all murders in the United States are done by a “serial killer.” Moreover, over 81 percent of all murder cases in the United States involve only one victim and one murderer.

Myth #4 – Gathering Evidence Only Takes a Few Minutes… Like in the TV Shows

While physical evidence is the cornerstone for the majority of crimes, tangible physical evidence is quite difficult to locate and process. Unlike what is shown on television shows and in movies, processing biological evidence doesn’t take hours, or even days. To gather tangible biological evidence, the process can take months. In fact, only two thirds of all biological evidence gathered from crime scenes is utilized and examined. Moreover, less than one percent of all crimes are solved through the assistance of DNA.

For more, see the Top Ten Law Related Movies Every US Law Student Should See.

Guide to Becoming a Probation Officer

Probation officers play a direct role in supervising convicted offenders who were given a non-correctional facility sentence. If you’re searching for a career that’s challenging, but also one that can make a significant difference in the life of a convicted offender, then you should consider a career as a probation officer. While this, and many others, criminal justice system careers are not for the weak-spirited, its challenges are only matched by its rewards. Those seeking to start a career as a probation officer, must gain a solid understanding of its education and training pathways.

Educational Requirements for Probation Officers

While each state determines the final requirements for those seeking to start a career as a probation officer, most require aspiring officers to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Those seeking a “leg up” from their competition should major in criminal justice with an emphasis in corrections or law enforcement. Along with a bachelor’s degree, some states require aspiring probation officers to successfully obtain a federal or state government sponsored certificate program. These certificate programs typically take less than one year to complete. Contact your state board of licensing to determine whether or not this certificate is required, and how to begin the process.

Although most choose a general criminal justice degree program, there are several specialized criminal justice degree programs available to those seeking enhanced advancement and employment opportunities. Perhaps the most common specialized probation officer programs include: adult criminal probation, juvenile probation processes and substance abuse probation specializations.

Of course, those who wish to enter this field in a position for advancement should consider obtaining a master’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in corrections or criminal psychology. Upon completing these degree pathways, you’re set up to enter the workforce in a Mangagement-level position.


Because of the nature of this profession, many probation officers are required to undergo specific examinations before entering the workforce. Aspiring probation officers may be required to undergo extensive psychological and physical exams to ensure they are mentally and physically fit for the requirements of this position. Depending on the state, in order to begin working they may be required to undergo certification examinations, which cover topics related to probation. Topics covered within these examinations typically include: reading comprehension, investigative issues, probation concepts, probation theories and relationship techniques between officers and probationers.

In order to gain state-specific information, contact your state board of licensing. You may also find this information by navigating your Web browser to the State Department of Law Enforcement. This department typically oversees certification and training requirements for probation officers – along with other careers within the law enforcement industry.

The Difference Between Criminal Justice and Criminology

If you’re interested in beginning a career within the criminal justice system, then you’ve likely come across advertisements and college brochure’s proclaiming the wonders of their criminal justice program. However, there’s a mass amount of confusion among those wishing to enter this field; what’s the difference between criminal justice and criminology degrees? While on its surface, it may seem these two training programs are identical; however, as you delve deeper, you’ll soon realize these are two completely separate training programs. If you’re interested in starting a career in this industry, then it’s essential to understand which of these two degrees you should pursue.

Differences Between Criminal Justice and Criminology

In public forums, the terms “criminology” and “criminal justice” are often used interchangeably. This is unfortunate, as it causes a vast amount of confusion among those wishing to embark in this rewarding educational system. In order to understand the differences between these two educational pathways, you must understand what each program covers.

Criminal justice is the study of established justice systems, and it’s directly related to the processes involved in law enforcement, such as criminal prosecution and handling criminals within the court system. Criminology, on the other hand, delves into the anatomy of crimes. While criminal justice also accomplishes this task, criminology delves far deeper into crime anatomy – specially detailing its causes.

In other words, criminology is the official study of crime in the sociological level. These professionals analyze, study, advice and research all aspects of human behavior and how this behavior led to a crime.

Essentially, criminology and criminal justice go hand-in-hand, as criminal justice is the theoretical and practical application of criminology. While criminology studies crime, criminal justice responds to crimes and its offenders and victims. There are three primary components of criminal justice: law enforcement, crime investigation and criminal punishment/rehabilitation.

Because criminal justice cannot operate without criminology, and vice-versa, it’s no surprise those seeking to enter this field of study become confused. However, with this better understanding, you’re able to decide which viewpoint you’d wish to approach this industry. Perhaps the most effective way to determine which educational pathway is best for you is to fully research the course offerings found within criminal justice or criminology degree programs. Contact your local college or university, or visit any number of websites that provide information on security guard license programs to uncover specific online criminal justice courses. It’s with this understanding you’ll be able to fully understand which is best for your career goals and desires.