Evolution of Criminal Justice Technology

Evolution of Criminal Justice Technology




The importance of criminal justice cannot be gainsaid as far as enhancing the stability or any society is concerned. The criminal justice system underlines a set of processes and agencies that governments establish in an effort to control crime, as well as impose penalties and punishments to individuals that violate laws and regulations laid out in the constitutions. In the past, criminal justice systems mainly revolved around a couple of individuals coming up with rules and regulations, as well as agreeing to abide by them. However, the growth of civilization underlined the necessity for a more structured criminal justice system and law enforcement institutions. Like other professions, the criminal justice profession has been immensely affected by the varied technological innovations. Needless to say, technological innovations have gone a long way in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of varied industries and sectors, with criminal justice profession being no exception. Just as there are immense advances in technology in the world, so is there an immense advance of the same in the criminal justice system. Scholars have underlined the fact that crimes have become increasingly difficult to penetrate successfully. Nevertheless, the incorporation of technology has gone a long way in aiding the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system in meeting its goals.

Evolution of technology in the criminal justice system

The history of technology in criminal justice systems may be traced way back in the beginning of the 20th century when walkie-talkies were introduced. In 1960, the St. Louis Police Department became the first one to install computer-aided dispatch systems. This was followed by the inauguration of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which offered a national computerized filling system on stolen vehicles, wanted persons, weapons, as well as other valuable items, under the recommendation of Crime Commission report. In 1966, the national Law Enforcement Telecommunications System was established, which was a message switching facility connecting all state police computers except Hawaii. 1973 saw the installation of the first court-operated CAT (Computer Aided transcript) System. By 1979, about 100 courts were active participants in the local justice information systems, while 500 state-level courts were using data processing techniques. Police Foundation Survey in 1981 stated that al law enforcement agencies that served 1 million people and above incorporated some computerized searching capability. Subsequence legislations have enhanced the incorporation of technology in the criminal justice systems.

Needless to say, the incorporation of the varied technological advancements has had an immense effect on the policing work. Researchers note that technological innovations have enhanced communications across the varied ranks of policing agencies. This means that there have been increased effectiveness in policing as data is exchanged more and in a faster manner, thereby allowing for quick execution of tasks.

In addition, researchers have noted that the incorporation of the varied technological advancements in the criminal justice profession has enhanced the accountability of policing activities. Senior constables and other high ranking individuals in the policing agencies had a higher likelihood of spending significantly higher amounts of time on requirements pertaining to accountability, planning, paperwork, organization and analysis of information, as well as the supervision and checking of the jobs done by their members of the staff.

Impact of information technology on criminal justice

Information technology has allowed for a more problem-oriented policing, or rather a better proactive policing (Pattavina, 2005). This is especially with regard to the potential for “intelligence-driven patrols”, “repeat-offender analysis”, as well as “hot spots, not to mention proactive crime investigations.

Moreover, information technology has played an immense role in enhancing the accuracy of investigations and the prevention of crimes. Indeed, criminal justice professionals have immensely used newly-developed computer software to monitor individual communications and transactions (Lazer, 2004). In this case, it has changed the manner in which police investigate varied forms of crimes including drug crimes, financial crimes, sex crimes, as well as internet-based crimes.

In addition, researchers have noted that the incorporation of information technology has enhanced the accuracy of and speed of investigations. This is especially the case for surveillance technologies that enhance crime investigation, with computers providing virtually limitless possibilities pertaining to the aggregation and sharing of information among the varied criminal justice agencies (Pattavina, 2005). In addition, they may be used in simulating or modeling outcomes pertaining to alternative correction and prevention strategies.

Current technological advancements implemented in the criminal justice system

Varied technological advances have been implemented in the criminal justice system all in an effort to enhance its effectiveness and efficiency in the execution of its duties.

One of the key technological advancements relates to electronic surveillance, which has been supported by advances in remote sensing, computers, telecommunications, imaging technology, and other related technologies (Lazer, 2004). Electronic surveillance is made up of sensing techniques as well as techniques that would aggregate and compare computer records, thereby revealing any additional information pertaining to an individual. Electronic surveillance technology may include pattern recognition systems, pen registers, electronic mail monitors, miniature transmitters, parabolic microphones and even CCTV.

In addition, the criminal justice system has immensely used technological advancements in mobile communications. In the past, police officers were considerably limited in terms of their geographical locations as they could not communicate or be properly supervised (Lazer, 2004). Nevertheless, there has been immense technological advancement with regard to mobile communications, where police can communicate using varied devices including walkie-talkies, mobile phones and other communication devices.

In addition, there has been increased implementation of computerized data matching in the criminal justice system (Pattavina, 2005). This refers to the computerized comparison of two or more groups of electronic records so as to search for people whose information is incorporated in the varied sets. This technology has gained immense usage in the criminal justice systems especially with regard to the detection and prevention of fraud, abuse and waste (Lazer, 2004). For instance, it has been used in detecting instances where one person collects redundant or overlapping government benefits.

Lastly, the criminal justice system has implemented DNA typing in an effort to enhance its efficiency especially with regard to apprehension of criminals (Pattavina, 2005). DNA typing has been developed by molecular biologists as a way of accurately identifying criminals.

Benefits of the advancements

The increased implementation of these advancements has been extremely beneficial in enhancing the efficiency of criminal justice systems.

One of the key benefits revolves around the enhanced accuracy in the identification of criminals. In the past, criminal justice professionals had to rely on witness accounts. Indeed, there were immense chances of inaccuracies where innocent individuals would be found “guilty” of crimes, whereas the criminals would be set free (Lazer, 2004). However, the utilization of DNA typing has enhanced the accuracy with which criminal justice agencies identity criminals. This is especially considering that no two individuals share the same DNA information unless they are identical twins, in which case the use of DNA typing would provide an accurate way of identifying culprits (Pattavina, 2005).

In addition, surveillance systems have played an immense role in not only enhancing the accuracy of identification of culprits but also preventing the commission of crimes. This is especially in correctional facilities, where surveillance systems have allowed for enhanced monitoring of prisoners (Lazer, 2004). On the same note, criminal justice professionals have identified high-risk areas and installed surveillance systems, which not only deter criminals but also result in increased arrests.

The future of information technology in criminal justice

With the increased advantages of information technology, it is evident that information technology will increasingly be used in the enhancement of the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice systems (Lazer, 2004). One of the future roles of information technology revolves around threat assessment, where it will be possible to identify the probability of a particular crime being committed or even a serious violent event taking place.

In addition, information technology will be used in the assessment of risk. This is especially in the case of former convicts, where actuarially-based risk classification systems will continually be used so as to avert the possibility of crimes. Risk assessment tools would be used in accurately identifying the subgroup of offenders, thereby allowing correctional systems to target supervision and resources on the high risk individuals.


Lazer, D. (2004). DNA and the criminal justice system: The technology of justice. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Pattavina, A. (2005). Information technology and the criminal justice system. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

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