The Business of Criminal Justice and Law

justice scales with a feather on one side and $ sign on the other with the feather side heavier. Caption reads, No matter the criminal justice organization, the budget seems to always outweigh revenue alloted. This is why professionals in the field need business skills.

Most of our readers are in school. Some are undergrads, others are in grad school. Some are in Law, others are working towards a Ph.D. in a justice field. Regardless of the direction readers are planning to take in criminal justice or law, many will eventually be faced with one stark reality: Criminal justice is a business.

The Business of Criminal Justice and the Legal Professional

FBI Criminal Justice Information Services.
FBI Criminal Justice Information Services. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). This building is run by someone. One day, it may be you.

Many who go to school for criminal justice plan on a job in the government sector. Many who enter law plan on private practice. Many will take a turn they do not expect. Some will spend their careers in non-profit enterprises; some will go into a related industry, but not really work in the field, so to say; others may find themselves taking a job they never knew existed. The possibilities in criminal justice and law are virtually endless.

However, no matter where someone works, there will always be the same elements common to any other business. People must be managed, offices must be kept operational, utilities must be paid, vehicles must be serviced, payroll must be on-time, and accountants must be kept happy counting beans or whatever it is they do. Kidding.

Accountants are just as vital to criminal justice enterprises and law firms as they are to any enterprise. Which brings us to the matter at hand.

When a person is just starting out in the field, they will be entry-level, which simply means they are largely sheltered from the business side of things. In time, however, those who perform well and are able to both train and motivate others will find themselves more involved with the business part of things. This is unavoidable.

Those entering law, in particular, will find themselves facing the business of law if they plan on private practice.

Generally, the types of business operated in the criminal justice system are:

English: This is a chart illustrating the amou...
English: This is a chart illustrating the amount spent on criminal justice by function from 1982-2006, from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Every dollar spent in criminal justice was budgeted and approved by someone. 

There may be others such as the S-Corporation or sole proprietor, but as a general rule, these are the business structures most in the fields of criminal justice and law will face.

The purpose of this set of pages on is to better prepare students of the field plan for the business of justice. We will provide not only general business guidelines but more importantly, show how these relate to the industry. For instance, consider some of the possible jobs which will require a justice professional to understand business operations.

  • Prison Warden: The warden of a correctional facility must be at once a leader while at the same time an effective administrator. The Warden must know how to operate within a budget and how to plan for contingencies. Wardens are in charge of multi-million dollar facilities and the lives of hundreds, if not thousands. In addition, the Warden must have the ability to effectively speak to the public, including news outlets. Finally, a Warden must know how to walk a fine line between taking care of inmates while maintaining absolute control over the incarcerated persons. Security is of the utmost importance, but so too is providing adequate, legal, proper care of all within. This position requires a person with excellent business skills.
  • Police Chief: As with a Warden, the Chief of Police must manage the operations of a police department. Such matters as vehicle purchasing and maintenance, assignments, promotions, oversight of dispatchers and detectives, making sure the trash gets both paid for and picked up, and more all fall under the Chief’s oversight. The larger the department, the more there is to tend to. Of course, the Police Chief as with a Warden will place competent officers in charge of these duties, but ultimately, the responsibility falls on him (or her). A firm understanding of general business practices is vital in this role.
  • Private Practice Attorney: If the law firm is small, the lawyer in private practice will need to know many business skills from general bookkeeping to building a website. If he or she does not know these things, they will have to be outsourced. In addition, there will be utilities to be arranged and paid, building maintenance, marketing, and much more, all before the first client is ever represented.
  • Judge: To become a judge, one generally works for years as an attorney. But if the person has worked for a firm without having oversight, the job of running a courtroom many be completely foreign. Regardless, the Judge will have to know the business to a large degree because he will have to run a campaign. He could hire a campaign manager, but how would he know how well that manager is using his campaign funds unless he understands business to some degree? Once he becomes a judge, he will also have to manage his courtroom including staffing needs and more.

No Matter the Criminal Justice Role, Eventually Business Must be Handled

This is a chart showing trends in the expendit...
This is a chart showing trends in the expenditures on crime by criminal justice function from 1982-2001. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). As crime increases so too does the outlay of monies. Just as a business produces a product, the criminal justice programs have a product: Justice.

No matter where the criminal justice professional goes to work, at some point business will need to be handled. This is because the field is still largely run by those who are not degreed professionals. Slowly, the criminal justice field is replacing non-degreed personnel in key positions with those holding at least a BS/BA. Eventually, someone lacking a degree will not hold positions of authority in any criminal justice organization.

This means that most of the readers of this site will face pressure to promote, to advance, and assume responsibility for the business side of the field.

This is the key reason we have decided to add content specifically to operating businesses, in particular, criminal justice and law businesses, to this site. We hope it helps.

What You Can Expect to Find in These Criminal Justice & Law Business Pages

These pages will include elements related to general business but with a view to applying them to the justice field. We will be adding pages related to…

justice scales with a feather on one side and $ sign on the other with the feather side heavier. Caption reads, No matter the criminal justice organization, the budget seems to always outweigh revenue alloted. This is why professionals in the field need business skills.
No matter the criminal justice organization, the budget seems to always outweigh revenue alloted. This is why professionals in the field need business skills.

Although it is unlikely that those who enter government sector management will need all these skills, knowing them will provide an advantage over competitors for the position. It has been said that the more you know, the more you earn. Even in criminal justice and law that is true.