Individual Rights versus Public Order in America

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The American criminal justice system is constantly faced with balancing rights of individual and the need for public order. While the criminal justice system must uphold the rights that we are granted it must also protect it’s citizens. This balancing act is represented by two opposing groups, individual-rights advocates and public-order advocates. Our text defines individual-rights advocates are “those who seek to protect the personal freedoms within the process of criminal justice”. It defines public-order advocates as “those who believe that under certain circumstances involving criminal threat to public safety, the interests of society should take precedence over individual rights” (Schmallenger 6). Many laws and regulations have been put into place to balance the two opposing groups throughout the history of American.

In the civil rights era, throughout 1960’s and 1970’s, led to the recognition of rights that had previously been denied due to certain groups. This movement would set new laws into motion that would grant certain rights to all American citizens regardless of gender, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, or disabilities. The civil rights era also expanded to include rights of many other groups such as criminal suspects, parolees, probationers, trial participants, jail and prison inmates. Some of the numerous laws that were past during the civil rights era include the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which granted women the same wages as men and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which included the abloishment of the unequal application process for voter registration requirements, outlawed discrimination in public areas due to race in public areas, encouraged the desegregation of schools, and prohibited discrimination by employers due to race, color, religion, natural origin or sex ( These among other laws that were past due to the civil rights movement would give all American citizens the rights that they were guaranteed.

Although the civil rights movement would be a great gain to the American citizens, safety and order must also be maintained. Throughout history many laws would be created to ensure that the safety of American citizens. A few of the laws that have been created have been the National Minimum Drinking Act of 1984, setting the legal drinking age in America to 21 years of age, Fair Labor Standards Act, put restrictions on which a person under 18 years of age can work, and the Selective Service System, requires all men ages 18 to 25 to be registered in the event that the military must reinstate the draft ( While these laws are put into place for the safety of the American citizens as a whole, there are still some that will disagree with these laws, stating that they go against our individual-rights.

A current mainstream issue that has arose is the need for a mandatory HPV vaccination for teenage girls. While individual-rights advocates would state that it should be left up to a minor’s parents whether or not their daughter should have the vaccination, public-order advocates state that it would help the greater good of the American citizens. Due to the rise of cervical cancer diagnoses due to the HPV virus, public-order advocates would argue that this is a life saving vaccination. As there are no any official laws in place regarding this HPV vaccination this will surely be debated heavily during the upcoming elections.

While the American criminal justice system will continue to balance individual rights and public order, there will always be some that will not be happy with the laws in place. This will cause constant debate regarding each of the two sides views. The criminal justice system will be constantly changing and adding rules to make each side happy and to look after the safety of the American citizens.

Works Cited

Schmalleger, Frank. Criminal Justice, A Brief Introduction Ninth Edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2012. Print.

One Response to Individual Rights versus Public Order in America

  1. Bill McMicheals says:

    Very Good, Kristin FINALLY writes a story!!

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