Criminal Justice Theory: An Introduction

Criminal Justice Theory: An Introduction

Criminal Justice Theory: An Introduction

Criminal Justice Theory: An Introduction


Criminal Justice Theoryexamines the theoretical foundations of criminal justice in the modern era, whilst also considering legal philosophy and ethics, explaining criminal behaviour, and discussing policing, the court process, and penology in the context of contemporary socio-economic debates.

Throughout the book, a realist theoretical thread acts as a guide interlinking concepts of social progress, conflict, and cerebral models of criminal justice, whilst also recognizing our collusion in the creation of an increasingly pervasive culture of socio-control which now characterizes contemporary society.

The complex theoretical issues tackled in this book are addressed in an accessible style, making this a relevant and comprehensive introduction to criminal justice theory for students on a wide range of undergraduate criminal justice modules. It is also a helpful guide for those commencing postgraduate studies in the disciplines of criminal justice, criminology, and law.


This is a book about criminal justice theory. Students of criminal justice and the law – and in reality other disciplines as well – are invariably overwhelmed by the word ‘theory’ which they seem to subconsciously associate with the esoteric or even the mythical and scary ‘rocket science’ with the outcome being an inherent resistance to the subject matter. Theory nevertheless in reality means ‘explanation’ and is simply about how and, most importantly, ‘why’ we do some things and in the form that we do.

There seems to be no academic consensus as to what exactly constitutes a ‘criminal justice theory’ but this text approaches the task by explaining from different, often competing, but sometimes complementary, perspectives why the various components of the ‘criminal justice system’ operate in the way that they do and in whose interest. This book thus considers the theoretical underpinnings of criminal justice and its institutions and in doing so considers the areas of legal philosophy and ethics, explaining criminal behaviour (criminological theory), policing, the court process, punishment or penology and youth justice. The theories discussed are significantly all the products of an era encompassing approximately the past three centuries which has come to be termed the modern age and it is a time period which has its origins in a period of great intellectual ferment and activity known as the European Enlightenment.

The European Enlightenment and the rise of the modern age

The European Enlightenment involved the development of a whole range of thought concerning the nature of human beings, their relationship with each other, institutions, society and the state, and in doing so, provided the guiding ideas of the modern age. This is not to say that all of these ideas have stood the test of time and circumstance, but before the eighteenth century, the human world and the ideas that underpinned it are distinctly less recognisable to modern observers than those which emerged and struggled to gain acceptance in that tumultuous period.

Many of the ideas of the Enlightenment stressed commonalities among people and, in doing so, threatened the social domination of the aristocracy and the established Church. Before this time the common people had been encouraged by the church to simply accept their lot in life but with the rise of Protestantism and . . .

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