8-2 discussion: internal versus external discretion

The exercise of discretion in the criminal justice system and related agencies often plays a fundamental part in decisions which are made; a concept central to the meaning of justice. However, the definitions of discretion can be murky, and regardless of its importance, it can be a highly arguable concept with significant controversy surrounding its nature and legitimacy.

—L. Gelsthorpe & N. Padfield

As you have learned throughout this course, discretion is a major factor in the decision-making process in criminal justice. Discretionary decisions are made and influenced by various factors in the field, both internally and externally, which can make discretion a highly controversial concept. For this discussion, we will explore influential internal and external discretionary factors.

In your initial post, explain one internal factor and one external factor that affect discretionary decision making. Why did you select these factors as being influential? Can you provide one example you have seen in public or in the media of each of these factors impacting discretionary decision making?

In response to two of your peers, state whether you agree or disagree with the factors your peers selected. If you agree with the factor, explain why you support it. If you do not agree, explain why another factor may be more influential than the one your peer mentioned in their initial post. Remember to always be respectful when replying to peers, even if you do not agree with their stance or rationale.


Gelsthorpe, L. & Padfield, N. (Eds.). (2003). Exercising discretion: Decision-making in the criminal justice system and beyond [Abstract]. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=202489

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