In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Technology and the Criminal Justice System

  • Introduction
  • General Treatments
  • Data Sources
  • Computer Hardware and Software
  • Databases and Information Repositories
  • Communications and Monitoring Equipment
  • GIS and Crime Mapping
  • Weapons and Defensive Resources
  • Computer Forensics and Digital Evidence Handling
  • Cybercrime and Law Enforcement Investigation

Criminology Technology and the Criminal Justice System
Thomas Holt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 May 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0173


The evolution of technology directly affects the way the criminal justice system operates at fundamental levels. A wide range of technologies are employed in support of the justice system, including telephony, database management software, computers, automobiles, and weapons. The adoption and implementation of technology also directly shapes the policies and practices of the justice system. For example, the development of modern communications and transportation technologies in the early 1900s increased the response capability of police and changed citizen calls for service. Computers and cellular technologies have increased the capacity of data processing, information sharing, and communications within and across agencies. The increasing societal dependence on the Internet and computer-mediated communications have led law enforcement to develop tools to investigate offenses online. Thus, technology plays a pivotal role in the justice system, though a majority of researchers focus on the implementation and effect of technologies in law enforcement agencies.

General Treatments

There are a number of general texts on the role and use of technology in the criminal justice system. Due to the rapid and significant changes in technology over the past two decades, it is difficult to find particularly current works on the topic. In addition, given the depth and variety of technologies used throughout the system, their depth of content is variable. Both Byrne and Marx 2011 and Foster 2005 provide an introductory overview to the range of technologies used across law enforcement agencies with particular emphasis on communications technology. Schwabe, et al. 2001 provides an overview on the factors affecting the adoption of technologies in state and local law enforcement agencies. Feigenson and Spiesel 2009 gives an interesting and up-to-date exploration of the application of technology in courtrooms and its prospective impact on the judicial process generally. Stambaugh, et al. 2001 provides an important exposition on the issues facing law enforcement in order to investigate cybercrimes. Moriarty 2005 and Pattavina 2004 provide explorations on a range of technologies used by police, courts, and corrections.

  • Byrne, James, and Gary Marx. 2011. Technological innovations in crime prevention and policing: A review of the research on implementation and impact. Journal of Police Studies 3.20: 17–40.

    This recent article provides an overview of the innovations applied across police agencies in the past decade and attempts to understand why specific resources are adopted relative to their impact on the field and citizens generally.

  • Feigenson, Neal, and Christina Spiesel. 2009. Law on display: The digital transformation of legal persuasion and judgment. New York: New York Univ. Press.

    This book provides a very robust discussion of the use of visual and multimedia digital technologies by lawyers and their effect on judges, juries, and the larger public as a whole. In particular, they consider how the implementation of visual media influences the presentation of evidence and the value of virtual courts and telecommunications to engender the legal process using actual trials as case examples.

  • Foster, Raymond E. 2005. Police technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Overview of the communications, database, vehicle, and weapons technologies employed by law enforcement, with a brief discussion of the evolution of these resources over time. This text would be appropriate for law enforcement courses at all levels.

  • Moriarty, Laura J., ed. 2005. Criminal justice technology in the 21st century. 2d ed. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

    Edited volume providing approachable reviews and research on the use of technology in all facets of the criminal justice system by various authors in the field. This work addresses the technologies used not only by law enforcement but correctional facilities and criminal justice educators as well. There is also some exploration of technologies to facilitate both real-world and digital forensic investigation.

  • Pattavina, April, ed. 2004. Information technology and the criminal justice system. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This edited text provides a substantive overview on the adoption of various technologies across the criminal justice system using original research. The significant research focus of this text makes it appropriate for advanced undergraduate and graduate student audiences.

  • Schwabe, William, Lois M. Davis, and Brian A. Jackson. 2001. Challenges and choices for crime-fighting technology: Federal support of state and local law enforcement. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

    Pertinent overview of the state of technology use in law enforcement agencies at all phases of investigation from first response to forensic investigation of evidence, along with evaluation and assessment of the deployment of various technologies in the field.

  • Stambaugh, Hollis, David S. Beaupre, David J. Icove, Richard Baker, Wayne Cassady, and Wayne P. Williams. 2001. Electronic crime needs assessment for state and local law enforcement. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

    National survey of law enforcement agencies summarizing the state of agencies to investigate cybercrimes, along with recommendations to improve the response to these offenses at all levels. This technical report is appropriate for policymakers and graduate students.

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