Comparison of Criminal Justice Systems – United States, Canada and Saudi Arabia

Canada, Saudi Arabia and United States have different history and culture, thus leading to difference in criminal justice system in the three countries. For example, history and culture of Saudi Arabia was founded in Islamic region which is totally different from those of Canada and the United States. Although, Canada and the United States have history and culture stemming from their colonies, they differ significantly.

Brief description of history and culture of each country


            Analysis of Canadian history and culture showed that government at municipal, provincial/territorial and federal level shared an intertwined culture. The cultural policies are influenced by investment opportunities, foreign trade, multicultural society, Canada’s two official languages, social benefits, economic growth, national and regional interests and perception of public good (Nunn, 2012). Studies have showed that Canada’s cultural fabric has been influenced by several factors including diverse Aboriginal cultures, official linguistic duality (English and French), a distinct blend of multicultural demographics, ubiquitous proximity to U.S., the high cost of production and limited economies of scale as well as small and geographically dispersed population. These are the historical and cultural perspectives that have shaped the criminal justice system of Canada.

Saudi Arabia

            The analysis of history showed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the original homeland of the Arab people and of Islam and it occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula. The historical and cultural identities of Saudi Arabian people represent principally the Arab and Muslim (Fadel, 2013). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a contemporary state whose national culture is connected to the dynasty of Al Saud and it forms the basis of geographic and state’s cultural setting. The constitution of the country was derived from Islam which is the Koran and Islamic law (Sharia). The ruler is the custodian of the constitution and the citizens sees him as the symbol of the state’s policing, administrative and technical functions.

United States

            United States is a nation that was formed built on immigration from other countries. As a result, the United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries globally. The history of the United States showed that nearly every region of the world is represented. This makes the United States the most culturally diverse nation in the world. Although the most evident culture is the English due to colonization that began in early 1600s, Asians, Africans, Latin Americans and Native American have shaped the history and culture of the United States. All these historical and cultural factors have shaped the criminal justice system of the United States.

How culture has impacted the development of criminal justice system in the three countries

            Canada criminal justice system operates on principles and processes stemming from civil and common law histories. From the cultural perspective, the Canadian criminal justice system has incorporated international conventions and it strived to respect for the separation of powers between judicial, executive and legislative arms of government as well as commitments to balance the needs of offender and victims. Although the criminal justice system in Canada was meant to be a just and fair to all Canadian citizens, analysis showed that the justice system targets Aboriginal population unfairly. Statistics showed that Aboriginal population represent the higher number of people incarcerated. This means that the culture of the Aboriginal people does not work in datum with current criminal justice system. Analysis showed that Aboriginal people have practiced distinct cultural entities from the mainstream culture. As a result, the culture of the mainstream society has influenced the criminal justice system work against the Aboriginal people culture.

            The criminal justice system in Saudi Arabia stemmed from the Islamic and Sharia law. The basic system clearly states that the Kingdom’s Constitution are the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Hamoudi, 2014). Further analysis showed that Islamic culture has great influence on the Saudi Arabia criminal justice system because the basic system clearly stipulate that the roles and objectives of the state is to enforce and protect the principles of Sharia and Islam respectively. The other cultural influence on criminal justice system in evident from the fact that the basic systems confirms the monarchial system of the state. For example, it reaffirms principles of government such as equality, consultation and justice of citizens under Islamic Sharia.

            In the case of the United States, the criminal justice system was founded on common law. The structure and design of the criminal justice system of the United States was majorly borrowed from the English version due to colonial historical perspective. As stated earlier, United States the most diverse culturally with majority of the region being represented. However, the European has greatly influenced the criminal justice system of the United States. For example, recent statistics showed that law enforcement agencies have killed and arrest African American more than any other racial group in American society. Similarly, judicial system has handed convicts more African American than any other racial group in the society. As a result, correctional facilities hold high number of Africa American both at the state and the federal level as compared to other racial groups.

Recent changes

            Canada and United States reformed the criminal justice system to ensure that minority groups access a just and fair justice system. This include incorporating the cultures from the minority by bringing onboard majority of them. These reforms have changed the criminal judicial system in these two countries (Rodriguez, 2016). For example, the law enforcement officer found discriminating minority groups are interdicted and prosecuted. The main objective of these reforms is to minimize unfair and biases in the criminal justice system. In Saudi Arabia, some of the proposed reforms on basic system is to eliminate penalties that are against human rights such as death penalty. Due to these changes on the criminal justice system, it has influenced greatly on the culture of the people it serves.

The legal issues

            Some of the issues that have raised concern in the criminal justice of the three countries are the issues affecting significant groups such as youth, minority groups, women, aging and ailing offenders. The other issues relate to maintaining fairness such as access to legal aid, plea bargaining, wrongful convictions and victims (Perrin, et al., 2016). These issues majorly affect Canada and United States criminal justice system. One major issue that affect the criminal justice system of Saudi Arabia is the award of minimal penalty. Analysis showed that most of these issues impacted the culture of the people it serves. For example, the crime rate in Saudi Arabia is very low due to maximum penalty given to the convicts

The role of the politics            

The development of the criminal justice system in Canada and United States was influenced by politics. This because the legislative arm of government in the two states have the authority to legislate and changes law in the constitution. However, the development criminal justice system in Saudi Arabia had minimal influence from the politics because basic system was founded on Quran and Sharia. 

Comparison of Criminal Justice Systems – United States, Canada and Saudi Arabia

The criminal justice systems vary from one country to the other, with some drawing the structure of their legal systems from those of other countries. Having knowledge of the criminal justice systems of countries is critical to the understanding about their relevant differences as well as the similarities that exists between them. According to (Siems, 2012) justice system comparisons must involve three countries to allow for determination of the differences and similarities. In this paper, a summary of the policing model, the judicial structure and corrections systems and the legal traditions of the United States, Canada and Saudi Arabia will be undertaken.

Read also A Comparison of the U.S and Canadian Justice Systems

The United States

The Policing Model

            Police organizations in various countries are rooted in the historical background and the socio-cultural developments. In the U.S, the police are organized on federal, state and local basis. Law enforcement is decentralized, with federal authorities dealing with violation of federal laws, while state and county authorities deal with violations of state and local laws.

The Judicial Structure and Correction Systems

            The U.S is a federal system with the federal government and the individual state governments. According to (Hatch & Hatch, 2011) the United States has three levels of government, the federal, state and local governments. The country’s judicial system is based on these three levels of governments with each having legislative, executive and judicial branches. Consequently, there are federal, state and local courts. There corrections system consists of the probation authority, the jails, community corrections, prisons and the paroling authority.

The Legal Tradition

            The U.S legal is rooted in the common law tradition that was brought England. However, within the country’s a state legal system can be found civil law traditions, for example the Louisiana that is based on civil law owing to the state being French and Spanish territory. The common law relies on statutes and court precedence.

Influence of Culture on the Development of the Country’s Legal System

            The development of the United States legal system was influenced greatly by the culture. Founded on Christian faith, the protestant culture influenced the formation and execution of laws in the U.S. According to (Harr, Hess, Orthmann & Kingsbury, 2016) the public schools in the U.S provided the agenda for social reforms that led to formation of denominational colleges. However, the beginning of 1830’s saw the challenge of the protestant faith with migration of Catholics, Jews, Muslims and even Hindus, which further influenced the U.S legal system.

Read also Restorative Justice Policies and Potential Future Criminal Justice Policy Evolution


Policing Model

            The Canadian police system is both complex and unique, comprising of three levels. We have the federal, municipal, provincial/territorial policing under the federal, municipal and provincial governments respectively (Conor, 2018). Depending on where the citizens live, there are various police services that are available depending on the location. Those people who live in Quebec and Ontario are served by municipal or provincial police officers, people living in western and Maritime Canada are serviced by municipal or Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), while Labrador and Newfoundland are under the provincial police, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and RCMP for rural policing.

The Judicial Structure and Correction Systems

            The Canadian Judicial system can be considered as unitary, consisting of a single judicial system that makes interpretation of both the provincial and federal laws. According to (Morton, 2009) the Canadian judicial structure consists of the section 92 courts, superior or section 96 courts (trial and appeal courts) and the Supreme Court of Canada. The country’s correction systems are under executive and can be categorized into pre-trial, pre-sentence and post-sentence services (Ekstedt & Griffiths, 2013, pp. 7). Once an individual is found by a judge to be guilty, they are placed either on federal, provincial or territorial correctional programs, depending on the nature of their offence (Correctional Service Canada, 2008).

The Legal Tradition

            The Canadian legal tradition is largely based on the British common law tradition (Department of Justice, 2017). However, there is a civil law tradition, which arose owing to the French territory that was established in Quebec. Under the civil tradition, the Canadian judges liberally and strictly interpret laws under the circumstances of that particular case.

Influence of Culture on the Development of the Country’s Legal System         

            Canada has a unique history having been under the French and English colonies. Traditionally, the people of Canada have long respected individual rights as long as the actions of other do not infringe on other people’s rights (Burrows, 2005). This greatly influenced the current federal structure.  The founders of Canada also rejected the forced cultural coercions as they encountered differences as they arose due to British and French occupation. As a result, the legal system remains a product of the British, French and traditional influences.

Saudi Arabia

Policing Model

            The Saudi Arabian police force is typically a centralized one, having singular line of command that arises from the King. The country’s public security police have a responsibility of general policing throughout the country having authority from Shariah and executive orders. According to (Dammer & Albanese, 2013) the police are further divided into Special Investigative Police (SIP) or “Mubahith” and the Regular Police. The regular police fall under the directive of ministry of interior, while SIP fall under the Director of Public Safety.

The Judicial Structure and Correction Systems

            Saudi Arabia is predominantly an Islamic nation, which follows the Shariah law (basic law). According to (Bowen, 2008) Quran is the official constitution of the country and the court system is complex. The lowest courts are the qadis or judges, who make rulings on minor criminal and civil cases based on Shariah law and Saudi Traditions. The next court levels are high courts, presided by 2-3 qadis. Above the high courts are two courts of appeal, based in Riyadh and Mecca and having same powers (pp. 14). After a high court decision, one can lodge an appeal personally to the king. Saudi Arabia does not use prisons as conventional sentencing resource owing to tendency for other forms punishments such as corporal punishment. However, (Dammer & Albanese, 2013) asserts that there are prisons, which are under the Interior Ministry.

The Legal Tradition

            Islamic nations such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia were less influenced by western law traditions. According to (Merryman & Pérez-Perdomo, 2007) in the Islamic nations, even those rule by western countries such Lebanon and Algeria colonized by French, they experienced a vigorous revival of their religions emphasizing on Islamic legal traditions. As a result, the legal system of Saudi Arabia is based on the Sharia law, an Islamic law that was derived from Sunnah and Quran traditions of Prophet Mohammad.

Influence of Culture on the Development of the Country’s Legal System         

            The legal system of Saudi Arabia is influenced largely by the country’s traditions and Islamic culture. All cases are determined according to Shariah law and Saudi traditions.


The components of the criminal justice system vary from one country to the other. Many of the individual country legal systems have been influenced by their initial culture and culture inherited from their colonial powers. Although, most of the legal traditions resemble those of former colonies, the Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia held firm to their traditions and Islamic Shariah law.

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