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Criminal Justice Actors in Comparative Perspective


Admission requirements

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


The criminal justice landscape is changing rapidly, both on a national and supranational level, partly as a result of globalization, transnational crime problems, and the preoccupation with risk. New actors are entering the stage of crime control, or what may be more accurately called ‘risk management’. For example, private companies such as G4S and Serco are significant forces to be reckoned with in the field of security. What does this mean for the role of the police and the nation-state in the criminal justice process?

This course discusses the changing contours of criminal justice in a comparative perspective, and focuses in particular on policing and imprisonment. Students will gain an insight into how different actors exercise power and what this means for compliance and legitimacy. They will also learn to examine these issues in relation to the relevant social, cultural and political context. During the course, we will identify processes of convergence and divergence that can explain differences and similarities between (or even within) countries, for example in the area of policing. Students will also deepen their understanding of the complex relationship between power, compliance, and legitimacy. These constructs can be studied at different levels of analysis; for instance, in relation to countries as a whole, but also in relation to institutions within a country. The course will also examine the commodification of security, specifically the role of private actors in policing, and what this means for effectiveness, accountability and legitimacy. Finally, we will consider the implications of prison privatization.

The comparative approach in this course is not limited to specific continents or countries and, by the end of the course, students will be able to assess the challenges to legitimacy of criminal justice actors in Western-European countries and North America, but also in Latin-American, African and Asian countries. Students will benefit from guest lectures from experts and, where possible, field trips to criminal justice institutions.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:
1. Analyse key developments in policing a comparative perspective
2. Use a comparative approach to assess the implications for compliance and legitimacy of the way power is exercised by actors in the criminal justice process
3. Critically evaluate the consequences of the involvement of private actors in the field of criminal justice
4. Reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of a comparative approach to the study of criminal justice issues and actors


Choose bachelor and master.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of lectures: 9

  • Students are expected to come to lectures prepared, so that they can fully benefit from the interactive class sessions.


  • Number of seminars: 6

  • The seminars will be used for discussion and deepening of knowledge of the weekly topics, through group work and individual assignments.

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: Weekly office hours.

  • Students who wish to ask a question during office hours should send an email to the secretarial office ( at least one day (24 hours) in advance with a short description of the reason.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Portfolio of assignments (50%)

  • Final paper (50%)

  • All requirements mentioned above 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.

  • There will be a resit for both the portfolio and for the final paper.

  • Depending on the number of participants, the course coordinator can decide that the retake of the final written examination mentioned above will be an oral retake. In that case, you will be notified of this in time.

  • The grades of the final paper and the portfolio of assignments will remain valid in the following academic year.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Key publications

  • Pakes, F. (2010). The comparative method in globalized criminology. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 43(1), 17-30.

  • Bayley, D.H. & Shearing, C.D. (1996). The future of policing. Law and Society Review, 585-606.

  • Tyler, T. (2011). Trust and legitimacy: Policing in the USA and Europe. European Journal of Criminology, 8, 254-266.

Other mandatory and recommended reading will be listed in the course handbook and on Blackboard.

Employability and (academic) career

During this course, one or two field trips to criminal justice institutions (e.g. EuroJust, a prison) will be organized to introduce students to a practical perspective. Additionally, the course equips students with the ability to independently assess criminal justice issues from a comparative perspective, which prepares for employment in the policy sector and with internatonal (criminal justice) organizations. The following skills that play a central role during this course are directly transferrable to the labor market:

  • writing skills

  • critical thinking

  • policy making

  • labor market orientation


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: mw. Dr. E.F.J.C. van Ginneken

  • 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: