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Comparative Criminal Justice Systems




Admissions requirements



This course will introduce students to the genesis of criminal laws and how we define crime and criminals. In studying crime, students will be exposed to patterns which may be influenced, in part, by actors within the criminal justice system. We will explore informal social control as well as the formal response of different criminal justice systems, from the role of the police, to that of the prosecutor and defense attorney and the courts. We continue with a discussion of sentencing and punishment – to include capital punishment and prison – as the end result for those found criminally liable. Students will be introduced to comparative criminal justice and examine and reflect on the ways different countries and jurisdictions deal with the main stages in the criminal justice process. Globalization and its role and influence on criminal justice systems around the world will be examined, as well as topics such as juvenile justice systems, miscarriages of justice, state and international crime, and international criminal justice.
Throughout the course, students will be exposed to aspects of various criminal justice systems to compare and contrast how different societies and cultures deal with criminal behavior, with particular emphasis on the systems in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, students are able to:

  • Understand basic concepts of substantive criminal law and how mitigating and aggravating circumstance influence charges against the accused;

  • Identify the various components and roles in the criminal justice system, and discuss the process involved as an accused moves through the system;

  • Recognize how various societies address the problem of criminal behavior, including the formal and informal administration of justice;

  • Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of different criminal justice systems;

  • Debate various sentencing options and the role of punishment within the criminal justice system;

  • Understand the emerging concepts in comparative criminal justice, such as (private) security, use of discretion, principles of punishment and miscarriages of justice;

  • Discuss global trends such as the global drop in crime, the punitive turn, penal populism, privatization, international policing and international criminal tribunals


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught in seminar format, including lectures, class discussion and student presentations. The course draws upon the field of criminology and criminal justice from an international perspective. Students will be required to present an academic paper on one aspect of the criminal justice system. They may introduce a general topic (e.g. use of police violence or ethnic profiling) or may focus on a particular aspect of the criminal justice system in a country of their choice (e.g. prisons in Mexico). Due to the international student body at LUC, students are encouraged to study and discuss the criminal justice system in their own countries. Students will be expected to write two short essays or position papers (no more than 1,000 words each). Students will have a choice of topics assigned by the instructor.


There will be a number of assessments for this course. In addition to a final exam comprising both multiple choice, short answer and essay questions, students will be graded on two short position papers, an oral presentation and class participation. In the table below, students can find the learning aim and percentage of the final grade

  • In-class participation 10% Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

  • Position paper (2 papers at 15% each) 30% Weeks 3 and 5

  • Presentation 20% Weeks 4 – 7

  • Final Exam 40% Week 8


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Mandatory Reading:

  • Pakes, Francis (2014). “Comparative Criminal Justice”. Third edition. Routledge Publishers.

  • Other readings will be assigned via the syllabus or Blackboard


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Alexis A. Aronowitz (


Students should read the first chapter of the book before the first class meeting.