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Criminal Justice Policy Evaluation


Admission requirements

Students who want to take this course need to be admitted to the Criminal Justice master’s program (Criminaliteit en Rechtshandhaving).


This course addresses the ultimate goal in criminal justice policy strategies: crime reduction. But to what extent and why are strategies effective? Criminal Justice Policy Evaluation aims to provide an overview of the theory, methodology, practice and usage of program and policy evaluation. This course trains students in evaluating theories behind Criminal Justice policies and programs in order to inform decisions on whether programs should be continued or not, and to provide information on how policies can be improved. We discuss various types of evaluation research: ex ante evaluation, process evaluation and impact evaluation. Ex ante evaluations are done prior to the implementation of the program and focus on the program’s theoretical basis: why would this program work and what, if any, unintended side-effects can be expected? Process evaluation focuses on the implementation stage: is the program implemented as planned? Impact evaluation focuses on the effects: to what extent is a policy or program successful, for whom in what circumstances?

We discuss the difficulties in determining causality in impact evaluation by paying attention to the methodological standards developed by the Campbell Collaboration. Furthermore, we address important criticism to these standards. In order to understand how to conduct theory-based evaluation research, we will immerse ourselves in the methodology proposed by the proponents of Realistic Evaluation. In addition, we discuss meta-analysis, systematic review and realist synthesis as instruments to determine the evidence-base of Criminal Justice policies. Furthermore, we scrutinize the relation between evaluation research and policies in order to analyze the potential role of evaluation research in evidence-based policy-making. Students familiarize themselves with evaluation research through literature study and by writing a research paper.

Course objectives

Upon completing this course, students will be able to

  • Distinguish between three main types of evaluation: ex ante, process and impact evaluation and to assess in which circumstances it is best to apply each type;

  • Distinguish between meta-analysis, systematic reviews and realist synthesis and reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each approach in their ability to answer different types of questions;

  • Advise on the steps needed to allow for sound evaluation;

  • Compare the different options available for evaluation of a policy or intervention and to choose an optimal solution given the resources at hand;

  • Compare the strengths and weaknesses of different evaluation research options and to assess the quality of research design choices of other scholars;

  • Carry out a realist synthesis of existing research on a criminal justice policy or program.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • 5


  • 5

Assessment method

  • Attend and actively participate in mandatory weekly lectures (if a student misses 1 or 2 sessions, an extra assignment follows. Absence with 3 or more sessions implies the student cannot complete the course successfully)

  • Weekly assignments (if a student misses 1 assignment, an extra assignment follows. Missing 2 or more weekly assignments implies that the student cannot complete the course successfully)

  • Final written examination

  • Research paper on a specified criminal justice program or policy

Course grades are determined by

  • Written examination (50%)

  • Paper (50%)

  • Depending on the number of students who have to take the resit exam the course coordinator can decide to take the resit exam in the form of an oral exam.

Submission procedures

  • All assignments must be admitted via SafeAssign (Blackboard)

  • All components should be at least 5,5 in order to complete the course successfully. All grades only hold for the present academic year.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Mandatory literature

  • Barton & Johns, N. (latest edition) The Policy-making Process in the Criminal Justice System, London: Routledge

  • Pawson, R. (latest edition) Evidence-based policy. A realist perspective. London: Sage.

  • A series of articles and chapters that will be distributed either through Blackboard or in a reader

Recommended literature

  • Bachman, R. and Schutt, R.K. (latest edition) Fundamentals of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Los Angeles: Sage, or equivalent

  • Field, A. (latest edition) Discovering Statistics using SPSS. Los Angeles: Sage, or

  • Brace, N., Kemp, R. and Snelgar, R. (latest edition) SPSS for Psychologists. Houndmills: MacMillan Publishers

Contact information

  • Course co-ordinator: mw. Dr. M.J. van Meeteren

  • Availability: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, through the secretariat.

  • Phone: 071-5277462

  • E-mail:

  • Consultation hour:
    If you have any questions or problems you can send an email to the course coordinator ( or you can come by during the consultation. The time and location will be announced through Blackboard at the start of the course. If you want to make use of this option, please send an email in advance to notify that you are coming. In principal, it is not possible to schedule an appointment at another time.


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail:


Belangstellenden die deze cursus in het kader van contractonderwijs willen volgen (met tentamen), kunnen meer informatie vinden over kosten, inschrijving, voorwaarden, etc. op de website van Juridisch PAO