The Impact of Events on the US Criminal Justice System

The Impact of Significant Events on the US Criminal Justice System

The present term paper provided a timeline of five significant events that impacted the US criminal justice system. Besides, the influence that each event had on the justice system and the association between the different events was elucidated. The events included the use of fingerprints and the DNA to resolve criminal, criminal justice reforms championed by William Penn, the establishment of the first correctional facility and investigative agency and the creation of the parole system (Roberts, 2013). Five events were discussed in detail in the subsequent sections.

Literature Review

Parole System

The establishment of the parole system in the US was first piloted in 1861 to reduce the period that the convicts were incarcerated. In principle, the parole system was characterized by indeterminate sentencing in which the subject was allowed to spend part of his or her sentence away from the correctional facility. The concept was championed by Zebulon Brockway (Virginia Commonwealth University, 2018). Nonetheless, parole privileges were not available to all inmates but only to the selected few with good behavior and a minimal threat to the community. Such persons were required to undertake a defined amount of service to the community.

The positive impact of the parole system was evident in the criminal justice system because the primary purpose of incarceration was to facilitate the rehabilitation of the offenders. The Department of Justice estimated that the program had resulted in the suspension of the jail terms of approximately 4.7 million persons between 2014 and 2015 (Kaeble " Bonczar, 2016). The statistics indicated that at least one person out every 52 was under parole. One of the key benefits of the parole system was that the criminal justice system had the latitude to revoke the parole privileges if the subject contravened the terms of release (Grattet, Petersilia, " Lin, 2008). Therefore, it was noted that the parole system had helped to downsize the number of incarcerated inmates. Additionally, the rehabilitation and re-integration of the inmates back into the society had significantly contributed to a decline in the crime rates and recidivism (Kohl et al., 2008), and in turn, less pressure on the criminal justice system. However, some researchers had observed that the intended purpose of parole was subverted by the surveillance programs on ex-inmates (Opsal, 2009).

Besides, the parole system had an impact on both the FBI and the fingerprint technology. For instance, the availability of fingerprint evidence enabled the law enforcement agencies (FBI) to arrest ex-felons if they violated the terms of the parole.

The Establishment of the FBI

The establishment of the FBI was considered revolutionary to the criminal justice system. The FBI was established in 1908 in response to the growing cases of crime in the US (FBI, 2018). In addition to crime, the country was faced with unprecedented cases of corruption in all sectors including politics and business. However, it was not possible for the criminal justice system to prosecute such cases without a robust investigative agency. Besides, the establishment of the FBI was aimed at protecting the US borders in the face of the looming world war (FBI, 2018). The FBI was able to achieve this mandate by preventing international espionage on the US. Therefore, the criminal justice system was the principal beneficiary of FBI operations because the agency provided professional and thorough investigations that resulted in the arrest and successful prosecution of criminals (US Department of Justice, 2018). Additionally, the FBI augmented efforts by the criminal justice system in arresting fugitives escaping from the criminal justice system (US Department of Justice, 2018).

Finger Print Technology

The fingerprint technology was first used in the UK to solve the crime. Following its success in the UK, the US criminal justice system adopted the new approaches to resolve the crime. Fingerprints were considered as an essential element given that they were conclusive proof that the subject committed a crime or he or she was at the crime scene (National Institute of Justice, 2018).

Despite the fact that the fingerprint technology was first discovered in 1858, it was until 1911 that the US courts formally considered fingerprint evidence as admissible in a court of law. In particular, the Supreme Court in Illinois was the first to accept DNA evidence; the trial of Thomas Jennings was the first successful trial that was based on fingerprint evidence (Cothron, 2012). Despite the fact that the accused appealed the decision, the criminal justice system affirmed the fact that fingerprints were a reliable tool in the identification of the perpetrators of crime and Jennings was executed. In 1917, a full palm print was identified from a crime scene, and it was matched to Ben Kuhl – a renowned criminal.

The reliability of fingerprint technology necessitated the FBI to establish a fingerprint identification division. The continued use of fingerprint technology was further augmented by the advent of computing devices, which facilitated the development of the fingerprint databases also referred to as the AFIS and IAFIS – presently it was estimated that the systems could hold fingerprint data for millions of people (Dror " Mnookin, 2010). The establishment of the FBI was considered to have a significant impact on the fingerprint technology because it supplemented other investigative approaches adopted by the agency.


The establishment of Interpol contributed to the success of the operations at the criminal justice department especially in addressing cross-border crime. Interpol was established in 1923 with the sole aim of enabling police agencies in different countries to share information regarding organized crime and to work together in mitigating security risks (Interpol, 2018). The first police agencies that formed Interpol were from Europe. However, the US police joined Interpol along with other police agencies in 190 nations across the globe. One of the critical benefits of Interpol membership was that the justice department enjoyed the cooperation (both in financial and human resources) of other law enforcement agencies in prosecuting transnational criminal organizations. Besides, the criminal justice analysis services provided by Interpol enabled prosecutors to prosecute criminal cases. Moreover, the establishment of Interpol had helped to address the crime associated with growing trade between nations. Interpol had positively impacted FBI operations because the agency benefited from the human resources available in other countries.

DNA Evidence

The use of DNA evidence was considered a significant event that later became one of the gold standards in criminal prosecutions. The use of DNA evidence facilitated the resolution of criminal cases through two ways. The DNA evidence collected from a crime scene was compared with the data in the DNA database, and a match was identified; alternatively, the DNA at the crime scene was compared with that of the suspect (US Department of Justice, 2017). DNA evidence was first used in court to resolve crime in 1999 (US Department of Justice, 2017). In particular, the convict's DNA was found in 22 victims of sexual assault and other cases of violent crime. In the subsequent years, the investigative agencies employed DNA technology to resolve cases that had previously remained unresolved. Therefore, DNA evidence had enabled the criminal justice system to reduce the backlog of cases (US Department of Justice, 2017) while at the same time ensuring that the perpetrators of the crime were brought to book. A decline in the backlog of cases had also reduced the expenses incurred by the criminal justice department in investigating the crimes. Besides, providing justice also enabled the families of the victims to find closure. The availability of DNA evidence had an impact on the FBI and the parole system because it acted as a deterrent to crime among ex-inmates while at the same time it enabled investigators to resolve long-standing criminal cases.


The present term paper highlighted the five key events that shaped the modern criminal justice system in the US. The first event was the establishment of the parole system in 1861, and it was followed by the establishment of the FBI in 1908. In 1911, fingerprint evidence became admissible in court, and Interpol organization was established in 1923. Lastly, DNA evidence was used to resolve criminal cases between 1999 and 2002. Based on a detailed review of each event, it was noted that each event had a significant impact on the preceding and subsequent events. For instance, the advent of DNA and fingerprint technologies enabled the criminal justice system to provide conclusive evidence that resulted in convictions or acquittal while the establishment of Interpol and the FBI facilitated the investigation and arrest of crime suspects.


Cothron, G. R. (2012). Fingerprint Evidence Part I: Tracing Friction Ridges Through History. SSRN, 1–50.

Dror, I. E., " Mnookin, J. L. (2010). The use of technology in human expert domains: challenges and risks arising from the use of automated fingerprint identification systems in forensic science. Law, Probability, and Risk, 9(1), 47–67.

FBI. (2018). A Brief History: The Nation Calls, 1908-1923. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from

Grattet, R., Petersilia, J., " Lin, J. (2008). Parole Violations and Revocations in California. Federal Probation, 73(1), 1–151.

Interpol. (2018). Interpol History. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from

Kaeble, D., " Bonczar, T. P. (2016). Probation and Parole in the United States, 2015. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from"iid=5784

Kohl, R., Hoover, H. M., McDonald, S., " Solomon, A. (2008). Massachusetts Recidivism Study: A Closer Look at Releases and Returns to Prison. Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, 1–41.

National Institute of Justice. (2018). Fingerprints: An Overview. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from

Opsal, T. D. (2009). Women on parole: Understanding the impact Of Surveillance. Women and Criminal Justice, 19(4), 306–328.

Roberts, J. (2013). 10 Milestones that Changed Criminal Justice Forever. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from

US Department of Justice. (2017). Using DNA to Resolve Crime. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from

US Department of Justice. (2018). Justice Management Division. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from

Virginia Commonwealth University. (2018). Brockway, Zebulon Reed. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from

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