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Risk, Security and the Rule of Law


Entry requirements:

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

Brief course description:

In many Western democracies, safety and security are dominating both the public and political discourse, thereby contributing to a growing body of preventive and actuarial criminal justice legislation and policies. Jonathan Simon (2007) speaks of governing through crime, referring to the development that policy and legislation are increasingly linked to the pursuit of safety based on the assumption that measures already in place are insufficient to do so. Whereas legislation should always be the result of a careful process of considering all the values and interests at stake, the current safety and security discourse seems to obstruct this process by propagating the overriding importance of collective safety as a matter of course. This is concerning since security without the rule of law puts democratically ruled states at risk.

This course introduces students to the rule of law framework for criminal justice issues, therewith focusing on the early stages of the policy cycle: the stage of “agenda-setting” (deciding which social problems should be addressed through new criminal justice policies and laws) and the “legislative stage” (the stage of drafting and deciding upon specific laws and regulations) From a criminological and legal-sociological perspective the course addresses what social and legal dilemma’s political and legal institutions face while governing security, guaranteeing safety and handling (inter)national crises on the one hand , and protecting the rule of law in a democratic yet complex society on the other hand.

The course closely reflects some of the key themes of the research program Criminal Justice: Legitimacy, Accountability, and Effectivity in which most of the faculty of the Institute for Criminal Law & Criminology participate.

Preparation for the labor market

By taking students through the early stages of the policy cycle and by reflecting upon and talking about the difficult dillemma’s policymakers and legislatures face in an age of migration and so-called ‘war of terror’, this course further sharpens their understanding of the policy processes and – by embedding these dilemma’s into various theoretical frameworks – it provides them with new analytical tools and insights that will benefit anyone wanting to work in any policy position, whether it be at the supra national, national or local level. Yet, because the course draws heavily on various theoretical frameworks, the course is also beneficial to those students who are thinking of pursuing a career in (academic) research in the field of criminal justice. Lastly, by explicitly training students’ (written and oral) argumentation skills in such a way that they are both able to engage with an audience of scholars but also with a more general audience, this course prepares students for any job in which they will have to engage in public speaking or public communication.

Learning objectives:

Upon completing this course, students

  • can illustrate the stratification of the Rule of Law and can relate this to the complex task of the legislature;

  • can identify and analyze the complex dynamics of both the agenda setting stage and the legislative stage with regard to current criminal justice issues;

  • can illustrate and evaluate how criminal justice issues in various countries are impacted by the rule of law as well as by broader societal developments in terms of the development towards risk societies and diverse societies;

  • can characterize the various theoretical reflections on the development of the culture of control and are able to use these theoretical insights to reflect critically upon different developments with regard to legislation in the field of public order and safety and are able to propose new policy arrangements;

  • can identify and describe the public role criminal justice scholars play in both the public and political debate and are able to give substance to this role by explaining criminal justice issues orally and in writing by using scientific findings and results combined with legal reasoning and argumentation.

Teaching format

  • The course consists of five mandatory interactive two-hour lectures, during which specific aspects of the literature will be further elaborated upon.


  • This course comprises five mandatory two-hour seminars, in addition to the five lectures mentioned above.

  • During the seminars, the leitmotiv will be the public role of the criminologist/criminal justice expert as a key factor and a major player in the public and political debate on public order, crime and safety and consequently also in the complex agenda setting and legislative stage. you will practice writing scientific op-eds (blogs) in which you are challenged to apply the acquired theoretical legal-sociological and criminological knowledge to case studies about various concrete security governance dilemmas. In addition to these four written assignments, students will have to orally present one of their assignments more elaborately.

  • Students will have to present their assignments – both orally and written – in such a way that their findings and argumentation are accessible for a more general audience of both citizens and politicians.

  • All students are required to attend and actively participate during lectures and seminars.


  • Weekly office hours during which the students can talk to the course coordinator about the study material, the blogs, etc. The office hours are not mandatory and students should send an email to the secretarial office ( at least one day (24 hours) prior in order to announce their wish to come to the office hours. Such requests should always include a short description of the reason for wanting to meet.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Examination & grading requirements

Course grades are determined by:

  • Weekly assignments and presentation (50%)

  • A final written open book examination(50%)

  • The weekly meetings must be attended in order to pass this course. This course has the status of a practical exercise. In preparation for the exam, you need to study all the prescribed literature as well as any audio and video material used.

  • All components should be at least 5,5 in order to complete the course successfully.

  • All grades only hold for the present academic year.

  • There will be a retake for the written examination.

  • Only when the average grade for the weekly assignments is below 5,5 one of the assignments can be retaken.

Regulation retake passed exams
In this course it is possible to retake an exam that has been passed (cf. art. and further of the Course and Examination Regulations), on the condition that this course is included in the compulsory components of the degree programme. Students who have passed the exam may retake the final written assessment (test) of the course. Please contact the Student Administration Office (OIC) for more information.

Procedure for handing in your assignments

  • All assignments must be submitted via SafeAssign (Blackboard)

  • Depending on the number of participants, the course coordinator can decide that the retake for the written examination will be an oral examination. In that case, you will be informed 10 days ahead of the scheduled date.

Course language

Course language
The course language is English. Students enrolled in the specialization Criminal Policy and Law Enforcement are allowed to answer in Dutch on their written examination. The four written weekly assignments as well as the presentation have to be in English.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

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

  • A series of articles and chapters that will be distributed through Blackboard

Recommended literature

  • Zedner, L. (2004, reprinted 2010) Criminal Justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press


  • Co-ordinator: mw. Prof. mr.dr. M.A.H. van der Woude

  • Work address: KOG, Steenschuur 25, room C1.08

  • Telephone: 071 – 527 75 52 (secretariat)

  • E-mail:


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail: