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Criminal Justice: Legitimacy, Effectiveness, Accountability


Entry Requirements

Students who want to take this course need to be admitted to the Criminal Justice master’s program

Brief course description

Criminal Justice as a concept refers to (the system of) practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, or sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts. Whereas this “definition” seems rather clear-cut, depending on an individual’s culture, nationality and disciplinary background, the definition will be explained differently and, accordingly, there will be different areas of emphasis and theoretical underpinnings.
In order to create a thorough and common understanding of the complex and interdisciplinary nature of the concept of criminal justice, this opening course of the master’s programme in Criminal Justice provides an overview of the systems of criminal justice currently operated in common law and civil law countries. The core components that both constitute and bind criminal justice and its actors and processes despite continental boundaries – legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness – are introduced as important leading components. These components will be scrutinized from the perspectives of both criminal law and criminology. Following this overview of the core concepts, students are introduced to contemporary issues and controversies in criminal justice. For the latter, a cross-national comparative focus is used to examine issues on crime control, public opinion on safety-related issues, corruption and patterns of other types of crime.
Furthermore, on a topic of their choice, students are invited to write a research paper on a specific subject involving either legitimacy, accountability or effectiveness of criminal justice practices. Apart from literature analysis on this topic, the research paper also involves analysis of global comparative data. For this, students will have a large range of cross-national comparative datasets at their disposal from which they can choose relevant datasets on their own topic (e.g. European Sourcebook, International Crime Victims Survey, World Values Survey, Transparency International Index, et cetera).
The course is embedded in the Criminal Justice research program of the Institute for Criminal Law & Criminology.

Learning objectives

Upon completing this course, students will be able to:

  • scientifically reflect on late modern challenges in the criminal justice domain (e.g. change in criminological thoughts, fragmentation, shift towards governance, culture of control, danger of expulsion etc…);

  • explain and apply the three core components of this course (accountability, effectiveness and legitimacy) and their interconnectedness;

  • explain and criticize the differences between common law and civil law system countries;

  • perform a literature analysis on a topic involving cross-national comparison of criminal justice issues on legitimacy, accountability, or effectiveness, and formulate a relevant research question on that topic

  • analyze cross-national comparative data on that topic (made available by the teacher), using descriptive techniques of analysis and, upon request, multivariate techniques to draw adequate conclusions from the results and write a coherent research paper.

Time table

Kies voor bachelor en master.


10 Lectures

  • The first element of this course is a series of traditional lectures during which various lecturers, including guest lecturers, will reflect upon and discuss the assigned reading material. Students are required to prepare for these lectures by reading the assigned literature and preparing questions.

10 Seminars

  • By means of weekly assignments that will be discussed during the seminars, students are challenged to reflect critically on comparative aspects of criminal justice systems.

  • The seminars demand that students develop a critical orientation to the material in the course beyond the required readings.

  • Furthermore, several seminars will be utilized to discuss progress of the writing assignment and address possible problems that students experience with this.

Office hours

  • For this course, the teachers will hold office hours once a week. If you wish to make an appointment for this, please do so by using this email address:

Examination & grading requirements

  • Attend and actively participate in mandatory weekly lectures

  • Weekly group assignments

  • Final written examination

Course grades are determined by:

  • Writing assignment / research paper (50%)

  • Final examination (50%)

  • All assignments must be submitted 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.

  • If the re-examination (for those an insufficient mark at the first examination) involves a low number of students, it may be that the examination mode shifts from written to oral.

  • 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.


Bij dit vak wordt gebruik gemaakt van Blackboard.

Reading list

Mandatory literature

  • Van Dijk, J. (latest edition) The World of Crime. Breaking the Silence on Problems of Security, Justice, and Development across the World. Los Angeles: Sage.

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

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

Recommended literature

  • 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

  • MacCormick, N (latest edition) Institutions of Law: An Essay in Legal Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Students can enroll for this course via uSis


  • Course co-ordinator: Dr. J.A. van Wilsem

  • Availability: Tuesday till Friday, through the secretariat

  • Telephone: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail:


  • Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail:

Those who are interested in taking this course on a contract basis (including an examination) can obtain further information on costs, registration, conditions, etc. from the website of Juridisch PAO