Department of Sociology at Ohio State Lima







Dr. Ted Houghton


Dr. Godwin  Ekechuku


Dr. Ted Houghton

Office: 470G Galvin

Phone: 419-995-8285


The goal of this course is to introduce you to an important means of social control, the criminal justice system (CJS). The course is designed to meet the needs of two types of students. The first is the student considering a major or minor in Criminology. This course provides a primary foundation for taking additional courses in this area. The second is the individual who is curious about the problem of crime control and wants to become a more knowledgeable citizen.

The CJS is a complex social-legal system with great impact upon society and the people associated with it, whether they be persons working in it, victims, or offenders. The CJS is a set of connected organizations, and a process. As an organization, we will examine the main goals, organizational structures, and occupational roles associated with the police, the criminal courts, and corrections. As a process, we will learn about how accused persons are moved through it.

Finally, there is great public debate about the topic of crime and crime control. Throughout the term, we will address controversies related to public policy on crime control. My hope is that the course will be helpful to you personally as you try to come to grips with your own positions on these difficult issues.

Objectives of the course

To become familiar with the different parts of the CJS, their history, functions and interrelationships with each other.

To develop skills in assessing information about the CJS.

To become informed about major policy debates regarding crime control and criminal justice.

To see how criminal justice professionals view their work.

Required Reading:

Schmalleger, Frank. Criminal Justice: A Brief Introduction (7th ed.) Prentice Hall 2006

Class and Attendance: Class time will be used in a variety of ways: lecture, discussion, films and other presentations. Discussions will presume and build upon the readings, so it is essential that you should read and be prepared to discuss assigned readings before the class for which they are assigned. Both lecture and discussion will often focus on material not in the readings. Regular attendance will be necessary. Contribution to class discussions on a regular basis influences grading (i.e. you may receive additional points if you are on the border of receiving a higher grade).

Exams and Grading: There will be four exams in this course. The format of the exams may vary and will be discussed in class. Your grade will be weighted as follows:

Grading: Three exams 80%
Course project 20%
Total 100%


                         Topic                                                                      Reading

 1. Overview of the Criminal Justice System:                               Schmalleger Ch. 1            Crime Control and Politics                                            

 2.  The Crime Picture                                                                      Schmalleger Ch. 2

 3.  Criminal Law                                                                              Schmalleger Ch. 3

 4.  The Drug Problem                                                                    handout


 5.  Policing: Purpose and Organization                                       Schmalleger Ch. 4

6.  Policing: Legal Aspects                                                            Schmalleger Ch. 5

 7.  Policing: Issues and Challenges                                             Schmalleger Ch. 6


 8.  The Courts and Pretrial Activities                                         Schmalleger Ch. 7

 9.  The Courtroom Workgroup and the Criminal Trial             Schmalleger Ch. 8

 10.  Sentencing: Crime and Punishment                                    Schmalleger  Ch. 9


 Course Project:

The following five project options are designed to provide you with an opportunity to develop more in-depth knowledge about some aspect of the criminal justice system. You will complete one of the following.

Option 1 – Position Paper

Few subjects are more controversial than crime control. Each step in the criminal justice system raises a number of difficult issues about which the public and criminal justice professionals often disagree. In this assignment, you will write a position paper describing one such controversial area, coming to a conclusion about it. The paper should include four main parts:

  • A clear definition of the issue.

  • A description of the various sides of the controversy.

  • A review of the social scientific evidence on the topic.

  • Your position on the topic with a justification.

  • The paper should integrate material from several different sources. Most of these should be from books and journals. Web exploration is encouraged but do not simply rely upon web sites as your primary sources. References must be properly cited and included in a bibliography.

    This assignment should take approximately 5 double-spaced typed pages (no larger than 12 pt. Font size, Times New Roman preferred). Papers are due last week of class.

    Option 2 – Panel or Debate

    As with Option 1, you select some controversial issue or topic in the area of criminal justice. You then prepare an in-class presentation on this topic. I recommend two to four students work together and organize the presentation as either a panel or a debate. You will be required to hand in your notes and a bibliography at the end of the presentation. All those wishing to do this option must get approval from me on or before May 13.



    • Is It Time to Give Up the War on Drugs?

    • Do We Need More Gun Control Laws?

    • Are Prisons the Best Way to Deal with Criminals?

    • Have Mandatory Sentencing Laws Helped Stop Crime?

    • Should We Have Hate Crime Laws?

    • Is It Fair for Police to Use Racial Profiling When Targeting Suspects?

    • Should We Abolish the Juvenile Court System?


    Option 3 -- Newspaper Analysis

    Choose a newspaper that interests you. It could be a local city paper or a national newspaper like USA Today. Most major newspapers have searchable web sites. Collect at least thirty (30) recent crime articles from your newspaper. Specify the time period covered (two weeks, one month, two months…) Read the articles and present an analysis answering the following questions.

    • What types of crime are presented in the news? (Frequency of types and their prominence in the newspaper are factors that can be considered here. Are there types that appear under-reported?)

    • What characteristics of crime victims are presented in the news?

    • What characteristics of defendants are presented in the news?

    • Compare what you have discovered with current statistical information (such as is discussed in Chapter 2 of your textbook). Do the news media provide an accurate picture of crime in society?

    Creating tables that illustrate and organize the information can be useful for this assignment (for example: tables that relate victim and defendant characteristics to types of crime; tables that related occupational, class and race/ethnicity to reported individual characteristics; tables relating the frequency of crimes reported in the newspaper to statistics on all crimes, etc.).

    This can be a collaborative project between two or three people, but parameters of the assignment will be expanded (such as increasing the number of articles and papers analyzed). Students who wish to collaborate on this project should discuss this with me well in advance.

    Your research analysis should take approximately 5 double-spaced typed pages (no larger than 12 pt. Font size, Times New Roman preferred). Papers are due last week of class.

    Option 4 -- Interviews with Criminal Justice Professionals

    This assignment requires you to interview at least one representative of law enforcement, one of the court, and one of a corrections agency (three total). For example, you could interview a police officer, a prosecution attorney, and a correctional officer. Or, you could interview a sheriff's deputy, a judge, and a probation officer. Any combination would be fine. Prepare questions in advance to find out about the background characteristics of these individuals, why they chose their careers, and the types of activities they do in a typical day. Finally, ask them about the organization's goals. For example, you could ask: What would you say are the five most important goals of this organization?

    When you complete your interviews, discuss what you discovered. Did the three people you interviewed have the same goals? If so, were these goals prioritized in the same manner? Did you find consensus or conflict between the viewpoints of your interviewees and between the goals of their organizations?

    Your interview report should take approximately 5 double-spaced typed pages (no larger than 12 pt. Font size, Times New Roman preferred). Papers are due last week of class.

    Option 5 – Analysis of an experience

    You can observe or participate in some aspect of the system (e.g., a police ride along, attendance at a trial, tour of a correctional facility, experience as a volunteer in the CJS).

    You then analyze in writing this experience by comparing your observations with what you read about the topic in your texts and other written sources. It is a good idea to do some research on the topic before you are involved in the experience so that you have some ideas of what to look for. As in Option 1, you must cite all sources and include them in bibliography.

    The paper should by typed and about 5 pages long (double-space, 12pt Times New Roman preferred). All projects must be approved by me in advance. Papers due last week of class.

    Last Modified on 02/28/2007