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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 master’s programme in Criminal Justice.

Brief course description

By means of a combined focus on both criminal justice in the books (how should the system and its institutions function) and criminal justice in action (how does the system actually function), this course will provide a realistic insight into the complexity of the functioning of criminal justice systems in various jurisdictions. Not only will the Dutch criminal justice system be compared to other countries (e.g. the USA and the UK), the dynamics and impact of the European Union in relation to the criminal justice systems of its member states will also be addressed and further elaborated upon in Criminal Justice, Human Rights & EU Criminal Law.
A broad overview will be provided of the theoretical origins and development, including the historical development. of policing, prosecution, sentencing, corrections and re-entry in various jurisdictions. This course provides students with a deep understanding of the organisations operating within criminal justice systems as well as the administration of criminal justice. Students will examine the central institutions and actors that make up the criminal justice process and ask how the daily practices of these organisations relate to and perhaps even influence the nature and quality of criminal justice. The focus will be on the five main institutions present in almost every criminal justice system: the police, the public prosecutor, the courts, the correctional system and the parole system. The course will explain how these institutions and corresponding actors operate, and will examine the nature of their interrelationships. By tracing the progress of a criminal case through the criminal justice process, students will discover what happens as we move from one institution to the next. 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 the institutions carry out their respective mandates independently, generating systemic or institutional fragmentation. Diverse organisational objectives and differences in the use of discretionary powers exacerbate the fragmentation, contributing to the more realistic view of the criminal justice system as a network of interrelated, yet independent, individual agencies and actors.

Learning objectives:

Aim of the course:
Students will be challenged to think broadly about why the system operates as it does and how its organisation and daily practices impact justice. They will be trained to compare criminal justice systems and its actors in various jurisdictions and to analyse differences between theoretical knowledge on criminal justice actors and practical policy actions by these same actors.

Final learning objectives
Students are able to understand the workings of criminal justice systems and its actors in different countries, and to reflect on major differences and regularities in trends within their criminal justice operations, including where appropriate global operations. They are aware of the challenges of the law enforcement, judiciary and corrective elements in today’s world and are able to collect, analyse and interpret comparative data on criminal justice systems in general and its actors in particular.


Kies voor bachelor en master.


10 Lectures
The ten lectures are equally divided between the five key institutions of criminal justice systems. 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.

9 Seminars
During the seminars, students will be working on a comparative policy paper that will take the form of a group document. A research journal has to be kept on the progress of the group paper. The final policy papers will be presented during a closing session for an audience of teachers and practitioners.

Mandatory fieldtrip to one of the key institutions of the Dutch Criminal Justice System, for instance the Police, the Public Prosecutor, etc.

Examination & grading requirements

  • Attend and actively participate in mandatory weekly lectures

  • Final written examination

  • Attend field trip*

  • Group Policy Paper**

  • Presentation

Course grades are determined by:
Group Policy Paper & presentation (50%)
Final examination (50%)

  • The seminars and fieldtrip must be attended in order to pass this course.

    **The paper must be submitted via Safe Assign (Blackboard) ### Blackboard

Bij dit vak wordt gebruik gemaakt van Blackboard.

Reading requirements

  1. F.J. Pakes (2010) Comparative Criminal Justice 2nd edition, Devon: Willan Publishing
    1. M. Maguire, R. Morgan, R. Reiner (eds.) (2012) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology 5th edition, Oxford: OUP
    2. A series of articles and chapters that will be distributed either through Blackboard or in a reader


Students can enroll for this course via uSis:



  • 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”: