Criminal Justice 150

CRJU 150: Crime, Law & Justice

Prerequisites: Declared major or minor in criminal justice

Credit Hours: (3)

Introduces students to key concepts in the study of criminal justice. Topics will include crime and social control, the role of criminal law, the nature of justice, and a survey of the criminal justice process. In addition, special attention will be devoted to the conduct of basic criminal justice research.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course will focus on five major areas of study:

Basic Criminal Justice Research With the goal of preparing students for future criminal justice coursework, this class will focus on basic criminal justice research. This includes writing, critical thinking, analysis of primary source literature, library research, and technology skills.

Crime and Social Control This section of the course will focus broadly on crime and social control. Students will distinguish between the role of informal (i.e., family, friends, social organizations) and formal (i.e., criminal justice system) systems of social control. Emphasis will be placed on the role that each plays in the contemporary criminal justice system. In discussing the nature of crime, focus will be placed on theories that explain crime, as well as how and why certain behaviors are labeled as “criminal,” from legal and social perspectives.

The Nature of Criminal Law It is essential that students understand the development and objectives of criminal law. This includes a consideration of the competing rationales for regulation of behavior (i.e., the relationship of liberty, morality, equality, and security) and the competing rationales for criminal punishment (i.e., deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, etc.). In addition, students will be introduced to the concept of discretion and its pervasive effects on the enforcement of criminal law. Finally, attention will be devoted to the variety of factors that can shape the development of criminal codes, such as public opinion, politics, historical/cultural comparisons, etc.

Assessing the Criminal Justice System Students will be introduced to the criminal justice process and engage in discussions regarding contemporary criminal justice policies. In addition to an overview of the system, critical inquiry will be directed towards the efficiency, effectiveness, and legitimacy of the system.

Crime and Justice While there may not be a correct answer to the question, “what is justice?”, it is an important topic for criminal justice students to consider. Focus will be devoted to conceptualizing justice and exploring how the contemporary criminal justice system does – or does not – achieve it. Attention may also be devoted to overlap between the concepts of criminal, social, and civil justice in a democratic society.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

A variety of instructional techniques will be utilized in this course. The class will be taught under the philosophy of active learning and student participation. A number of strategies will be utilized to provoke student interest and discussion, including (but not limited to):

  • Critical analysis of works of fiction, films, and classic literature within criminal justice.
  • Case-study examinations of controversial issues.
  • Class discussion, role-playing, roundtables, debates, and/or multimedia presentations.
  • Various written assignments.
  • Traditional lecture.
  • Guest speakers.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The objectives of this course are as follows:

  • To promote communication and critical thinking skills.
  • To develop the ability to locate, evaluate, and utilize academic resources.
  • To understand the role of formal and informal social control in the enforcement of law.
  • To analyze competing theories of criminal behavior.
  • To understand factors contributing to the development of criminal codes.
  • To assess multiple rationales for the criminal law.
  • To assess multiple rationales for criminal punishment.
  • To appreciate the role of discretion in the criminal justice system.
  • To describe the criminal justice process in the United States.
  • To debate the effectiveness, efficiency, and legitimacy of criminal justice policies.
  • To approach a conceptualization of justice.
  • To assess the role of “justice” in the criminal justice process.


Assessment Measures

Assessment measures may include any combination of the following:

  • Exams (in-class and/or out-of-class) designed to permit synthesis and application of course material.
  • Short quizzes over assigned reading or class presentations.
  • Individual or group presentations/debates/role-plays/etc.
  • Classroom discussion and participation.
  • Reflective journal assignments.
  • Analytic written assignments.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

Date Action Approved By
July 2005, Reviewed by Dr. Isaac Van Patten, Department Chair