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Key Ideas in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Key Ideas in Criminology and Criminal Justice

October 2010 | 208 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Explores the key contributions to the fields of criminology and criminal justice from the late 18th century to today and the conditions that led to their prominence

The development of both criminology and criminal justice has been characterized by different theories and ideas that capture academic (and sometimes political) imaginations and send the discipline veering in entirely new directions. Why did these ideas catch on? What about them attracted and held scholars' attention and on occasion caused them to impact policy considerations? Why do they still have value today? These are the questions addressed in Key Ideas in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Key Ideas in Criminology and Criminal Justice is an innovative, fascinating treatment of some of the seminal theories in criminology and key policies in criminal justice, offering a detailed and nuanced picture of these core ideas. With a fluid, accessible, and lively writing style, this brief text is organized around major theories, ideas, and movements that mark a turning point in the field, and concludes with a discussion of the future of criminology and criminal justice. Readers will learn about the most salient criminological and criminal justice research and understand its influence on theory and policy. They will also understand the surrounding socio-political conditions from which the ideas sprang and the style and manner in which they were disseminated, both of which helped these scholarly contributions become cornerstones in the fields of criminology and criminal justice.

1. Introduction
2. Key Idea: Rational Offending and Rational Punishment
The Social Context of Criminal Punishment

Beccaria’s Proposal

Why it Caught On

Influence: The Rise of the Classical School of Criminology

Empirical Analyses and Critiques of Free Will, Rationality, and Deterrence

3. Key Idea: The Science of Criminal Behavior
The Social Context: A Time Without Criminology

The Road to Lombroso

Lombroso and the Body of the Criminal

The Dissemination of Lombroso’s Theories

Criticisms of Lombroso’s Theories

Lombroso’s Influence

4. Key Idea: Understanding Crime and Society
The Social Context of the Early Twentieth Century

Social Disorganization and Anomie/Strain Theories

Rejecting Individualism

The Legacy of Anomie/Strain and Social Disorganization Theories

5. Key Idea: Hirschi’s Social Bond/Social Control Theory
The Social Context of the 1960s

Social Bond/Social Control Theory

The Marketing of Social Bond/Social Control Theory

The Legacy of Social Bond/Social Control Theory

6. Key Idea: Rehabilitation is Dead
The Martinson Report

Social Context

Getting the Word Out

The Influence of the Martinson Report

7. Key Idea: Crime Control Through Selective Incapacitation
The Context: Criminology, Criminal Justice Policy, and Society in the 1970s

James Q. Wilson’s Thinking About Crime

Why it Caught on

Selective Incapacitation’s Effect on Criminal Justice and Criminology: Empirical Tests, Empirical Critiques, and Ethical Dilemmas

8. Key Idea: The Police Can Control Crime
The Context of Criminology and Policing

Broken Windows Theory: Revamping the Police Role

How Broken Windows Theory Reached its Audience

The Influence of Broken Windows Theory

Empirical Tests and Critiques of Broken Windows Theory and Policing

9. Key Idea: The War on Drugs
Winning the War is Easy — Just Say No!

The 1980s in Context

The Magic in “Just Say No”

The Impact of “Just Say No”

10. Key Idea: Rehabilitation—Not Dead Yet
The Principles of Risk, Need, and Responsivity

Social Context

Disseminating the Principles of Effective Rehabilitation

The Impact of Meta-Analysis and the Principles of Effective Rehabilitation

11. Key Idea: Crime and the Life Course
The Criminological Context of the Early 1990s

Life Course Theories in Criminology

Constructing Testable Theories

Life Course Theory Catches On

12. Looking Back, Looking Forward: Conclusions
Looking Back: The Glaring Omissions?

The Legitimate Contenders

Looking Forward: The Future of Criminology and Criminal Justice


This book is excellent! I will not be adopting it for the class I originally listed, but will instead save it for Intro to Criminology. The theories are explained in a way that will be more interesting for students by giving the social context as well. It is also an easy read so I can supplement it with additional pieces rather than using this book as a supplement to a larger textbook (which I think would be too much reading for undergrads).

Dr Taryn VanderPyl
Sociology Anthropology Dept, Pacific University
March 28, 2016
Key features

Key Features

  • Examines key research over a wide time span as well as the conditions that helped certain ideas achieve prominence
  • Provides a well-rounded approach by incorporating scholarly work in both criminology and criminal justice in a single text
  • Chapter-ending discussion questions are useful for facilitating discussion and critical analysis.
  • Easily incorporated into existing courses as a supplementary title, it will enrich anyone interested in the development of criminology and criminal justice

Sage College Publishing

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