Criminal Justice Models


Title: Criminal Justice Models Submitted by: Travis Hance Course: CJS220 Instructor: Stephen Gillespie

Criminal Justice Models


Within the modern American Criminal Justice System, there are three recognized models for describing the process and what roles various actors play. While each of these models uses a different image as a visual reference, they describe the same process that moves offenders from point-to-point through the system. “The common theme illustrated by the funnel, cake, and net models of the criminal justice process is that at each stage in the process cases are winnowed out” (Meyer and Grant, 2003)

The Funnel model portrays the Criminal Justice System with the suspect and crime entering at the top of the funnel. “The funnel model illustrates the fact that the number of crimes that are processed through the system decreases at each step due to case attrition” (Meyer and Grant, 2003). Serious crimes and those that will be prosecuted end up at the bottom of the funnel, which represents conviction and sentencing. The Funnel model also demonstrates the realistic need in the Criminal Justice System to allow case attrition due to limits on time, budget, and available personnel.

The Cake model describes the Criminal Justice System as a series of tiers, similar to a traditional wedding cake. “The wedding cake model illustrates how cases are sorted into layers depending upon their seriousness, with less serious cases forming the bottom layer of the cake and more serious cases forming the smaller layers on top” (Meyer and Grant, 2003). In this model misdemeanors, and less serious violations comprising the bottom layer receive a

Criminal Justice Models


lesser amount of attention. As the gravity of the violation increases so does the level of attention, expense to the taxpayers, and amounts of investigation and discovery. “Under the wedding cake model we expect minor cases to receive less attention, and thus there is greater attrition at this level, represented by the bottom layer of the cake. More serious offenses, however, are more likely to be pursued through all stages of the criminal justice process” (Meyer and Grant, 2003).

The Net model likens the Criminal Justice System to a fishing net, which catches up all manners of suspects and related crimes. Some fish may escape the net, for example the little fish. This may be either due to discretion by arresting officers, prosecutors, or judges. It can also occur when the little fish are turned into informants in order to aid ongoing investigations. The big fish however, the serious criminals are retained in the net and end up getting caught. “The net has characteristics that allow some offenders to exit the net at certain points, while others struggle fruitlessly to get free but merely further entangle themselves” (Meyer and Grant, 2003).

In my opinion, the model which best represents our current Criminal Justice System is the Cake model. When we look at the variety of violations that make up the Criminal Code, each has a level of seriousness assigned to it, related to the levels of personal criminal culpability. In the Cake model, the bottom layer consists of the less serious crimes. These are often handled either

Criminal Justice Models


on the street with a warning from an officer, in a brief court appearance, or even by a judge in person. These actions happen every day in cities across the country.

With medium level crimes, more attention will be devoted to the particulars of the case. The suspect is often confined for a brief period of time in a jail or holding area pending the outcome of the trial. We see this happen within our society for high-level misdemeanors and low-level felonies. Suspects are often confined in a local or county jail until they can attend a preliminary trial.

Finally with serious crimes, the level of attention both in the court and the media often makes it difficult to ensure a fair trial. While in some cases the suspect might await a preliminary trial, often times they are removed to a county prison.

In my opinion all of these descriptions that make up the Cake model fit the way our current system works. I think, and hope that as the system evolves and grows in the future, we will see technology and education improve the efficiency of the Criminal Justice System.

To some extent we can already see this taking place. The introduction of recording equipment in patrol cars has helped by providing valuable evidence that can potentially be used during the following stages of the investigation.

Criminal Justice Models


Mobile data terminals provide officers with information on suspects on the street. This can enable the officer to see a person’s criminal history during a traffic stop, and can influence onsite discretion. As the technology evolves, hopefully our criminal justice system, and the tools of the various departments will evolve as well, increasing the efficiency of each and enabling us to better protect and serve society.

Criminal Justice Models



A. Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, page 245

B. Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, page 243

C. Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, page 244

D. Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, page 245