GV337      Half Unit
Politics, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Comparative Perspective

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Nirvikar Jassal


This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Data Science, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.


Familiarity with basic research design and statistics as covered by Research Design in Political Science (GV249) or an equivalent course (such as ST102, ST107, ST108, GY140, SA201) is helpful but not necessary.

Course content

Newspaper reports often discuss “police reform” or “criminal justice reform.” Yet, these terms are likely to have different meanings across countries, and how states’ political systems are organized may help or hinder change. This course explores the intersection between politics and criminal justice (law enforcement and the judiciary) in the advanced industrialized democracies such as the United States as well as in nations that emerged from colonialism in the 20th century. Questions that the course will cover include: do judges make biased decisions based on race or gender? Can community policing improve citizen perceptions of law enforcement? Do government-mandated hiring quotas for women and minority groups affect police legitimacy? Broadly, the course grapples with empirical social science scholarship – primarily from political science and economics – that uses a variety of analytical techniques to explore inequities in citizen interactions with the police and courts, how inequalities are perpetuated, and which governmental reforms have been shown to be more effective than others in reducing crime, making law-and-order institutions accountable, and mitigating bias.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term.

Formative coursework

As a formative assessment, students will be expected to produce an outline for their final essay. This will enable them to gain feedback about their research question and methodology for their final or summative assessment.

Indicative reading

Blair, Robert A., Sabrina M. Karim, and Benjamin S. Morse. 2019. “Establishing the Rule of Law in Weak and War-Torn States: Evidence from a Field Experiment with the Liberian National Police.” American Political Science Review 113 (3): 641–57.

Chiras, Dan, and Dominic Crea. 2004. “Do Police Reduce Crime? Estimates Using the Allocation of Police Forces after a Terrorist Attack.” The American Economic Review 94 (1): 115–33.

Abrams, David S., Marianne Bertrand, and Sendhil Mullainathan. 2012. “Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race?” The Journal of Legal Studies 41 (2): 347–83.

Vanden Eynde, Oliver, Patrick M. Kuhn, and Alexander Moradi. 2018. “Trickle-Down Ethnic Politics: Drunk and Absent in the Kenya Police Force (1957–1970).” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 10 (3): 388–417.

McCrary, Justin. 2007. “The Effect of Court-Ordered Hiring Quotas on the Composition and Quality of Police.” American Economic Review 97 (1): 318–53.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

The summative assessment comprises one final take-home essay on an original research question. Students will be able to answer their original research question using any social science methodology discussed in class, qualitative research, or any other technique discussed with the convener

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills