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Criminal Justice Actors in Comparative Perspective


Entry requirements

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

Brief course description

By means of a combined focus on both criminal justice in the books (how do systems and their institutions function) and criminal justice in action (how do systems actually function) in different settings, this course aims to provide students with a broad and comparative view on the organizations operating within criminal justice systems as well as the administration of criminal justice systems.
An overview will be provided of the theoretical origins and development of criminal justice systems in various jurisdictions, including the historical development of policing, prosecution, sentencing, corrections and re-entry. The focus will be on four main institutions present in almost every criminal justice system: the police, the public prosecutor, the courts, and the correctional system . The course will explain how these institutions and corresponding actors operate, and will examine the nature of their interrelationships, both at the national and the supranational level. The influence of globalization and the process of ‘shifting up’ of responsibilities ‘to the European level is a central theme in this course.
Although ‘criminal justice in the books might assume that the institutions and actors of the criminal justice system act as a coherent and unified system with aligned interests, this course will illustrate how institutions often carry out their respective mandates to a large extent independently, contributing to a more realistic view of the criminal justice system as a network of interrelated, yet independent, individual agencies and actors.
Students will have to formulate a relevant research question and answer this in a coherent paper and presentation, based on literature research and the analysis of secondary data referring to a country of choice. The aim is to produce a policy paper which takes into account current knowledge of the phenomenon, as well as how the different actors in the judicial chain deal with this phenomenon and what lessons can be learned for future responses.

Learning objectives

Upon completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Critically reflect upon and explain discrepancies between law in the books and law in action with regard to the daily functioning of criminal justice actors and institutions in various jurisdictions;

  • Appoint the different theoretical underpinnings of the criminal justice apparatus in various jurisdictions and relate this to variations in the organization of the criminal justice apparatus in various countries;

  • Assess and compare the way in which the daily functioning of individual actors in various countries, as well as the functioning of the criminal justice apparatus as a whole, relates to the concepts of legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness.

  • Demonstrate their understanding of the complex legal, political, social and organizational dynamics in which criminal justice actors are operating in a country of choice by writing and presenting a coherent research paper based on literature research and the analysis of secondary data in order to answer a well formulated research question.


Kies voor bachelor en master.


10 Lectures

  • The ten lectures are divided between the key institutions of criminal justice systems and overarching themes. * The lectures will be in part given by guest lecturers working within these institutions in the Netherlands, allowing the students to gain a unique insight into the practice of criminal justice and law enforcement.

5 Seminars

  • During the seminars, students will be working on a policy paper that will take the form of a group document.

  • Students choose a criminal phenomenon and investigate how the criminal justice actors in a particular country deal with the issue, how their actions relate to the formal policy and law at all relevant policy levels and what the outcomes are.

  • A research journal has to be kept on the progress of the group paper.

  • The final policy papers will be presented during one or two closing sessions.

Field trip

  • Student will go on a one-day field trip to EUROJUST or EUROPOL or another relevant institution. They will be expected to prepare questions and points for discussion.

Examination & grading requirements

  • Attend and actively participate in the weekly lectures and seminars (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)

  • Final written examination with open questions

  • Attend field trip

  • Group Policy Paper*

  • Presentation

Course grades are determined by

  • Final written examination with open questions (70%)

  • Group Policy Paper & presentation (30%)

  • All requirements as mentioned above (with respect to attendance) have to be met and the two components of the final grade should be at least a 5.5 in order to complete the course successfully. All grades only hold for the present academic year.

  • The paper must be submitted via Safe Assign (Blackboard)

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
1. F.J. Pakes (most recent edition) Comparative Criminal Justice. Devon: Willan Publishing
2. A series of articles and chapters that will be distributed through Blackboard.

Recommended literature

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


Students can enroll for this course via uSis


  • Course co-ordinator: prof. dr. J.P. van der Leun

  • Availability: Monday till Friday, through the secretariat

  • Telephone: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail:


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail:

Contract teaching

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 the “Juridisch PAO”: