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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Criminology"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Isabella Clough Marinaro
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 6:00 PM 7:15 PM
OFFICE HOURS: Friday mornings. Please email me to set up a Teams appointment

What is crime? Why are we so fascinated by it? Why do people commit crimes and what are the best deterrents? How do we assess the success or failure of policing, incarceration and rehabilitation strategies? This course examines the politics underlying how crimes are defined and measured and what patterns of criminal behavior have thus emerged over time. It explores both classical and contemporary theories that seek to explain why certain people engage in crimes while others do not. It also explores how theories of crime affect policy, it evaluates existing strategies of crime control, and introduces a critical discussion of how contemporary criminal justice systems operate.

The course is organized into three main sections. Firstly, we discuss crime as a socially constructed legal concept and phenomenon, its intense politicization, and its sensationalistic portrayal in much contemporary media. We then discuss the challenges of studying crime scientifically and debate the most common research methods in the field. The ethics and values that permeate all aspects of criminological study and criminal justice responses are critically explored throughout the course. Secondly, we briefly explore the early attempts of scholars to explain criminality, as well as more recent approaches to criminal behavior in other disciplines (biology and psychology), before moving on to in-depth discussion of contemporary sociological theories of why certain social groups are more prone to commit or to be victims of specific types of crime. Thirdly, we critically discuss the link between these theories and policies for crime reduction. Using various case-studies, we evaluate which forms of contemporary institutional responses can be considered most effective while others appear to fail. The course is based on lectures and in-depth class discussions, in which students are expected to engage critically with original criminological writings and contemporary empirical case-studies. Guest lectures by practitioners in policing, security and criminal justice institutions may also be organized. 

At times this semester we will be discussing crimes that may be disturbing, even traumatizing, to some students. If you are aware of particular course material that may be traumatizing to you, I’d be happy to discuss any concerns you may have with it before it comes up in class. Likewise, if you ever wish to discuss your personal reactions to such material with the class or with me afterwards, I welcome such discussion as an appropriate part of our coursework. If you ever feel the need to step outside during one of these discussions, either for a short time or for the rest of the class session, you may always do so without academic penalty. You will, however, be responsible for any material you miss. If you do leave the room for a significant time, please make arrangements to get notes from another student or see me individually to discuss the situation.

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

·       Explain and critically discuss the core criminological theories and the assumptions upon which they are based

·       Evaluate criminological theory in light of evolving empirical studies

·       Explain and critique the scientific methods used to study and explain criminal behaviors

·       Understand the connections between criminological theories and policy implications

·       Apply the theoretical concepts to real situations

·       Analyze the effectiveness of criminal justice systems and crime control policies

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
An Introduction to Criminological Theory, Penology and Crime Prevention. Mugari, Ishmael (2021). Nova. 1536191019  Ebook  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Gang leader for a day : a rogue sociologist crosses the line. Venkatesh, S. (2009). Penguin Books. 9780141030913  
In search of respect: Selling crack in el barrio Bourgois, P. I. (2003). Cambridge University Press. 9780511808562  

Mid-term examShort and medium length answer questions in which students apply the theories discussed in class.20%
Final ExamEssay based exam covering the main debates and issues discussed during the course30%
Written response paper Apply criminological theories to Bourgois' book "In Search of Respect" OR Venkatesh's book "Gang Leader for a Day" in preparation for class discussion.15%
Class participation and discussion of readings Active participation in class discussions, asking and answering questions, and evidence of close attention to the assigned readings15%
Presentation15 minute presentation for one of the topics highlighted in the syllabus (detailed guidelines will be provided). 20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Attendance is mandatory and you are expected to not miss any classes. If your absence is ecused by the Dean's Office, I will record the class for you. You should then watch the video and do all related activities and assignments as soon as possible. I will accept a maximum of 2 unexcused absences after which I will deduct 2% of your final grade for each class missed.

You cannot make up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean's Office. The Dean's Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will miss an exam must notify the Dean's Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up the work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until 15 Dec.

Letter grades and corresponding percentages for this class

94 – 100 points = A

90 – 93.99 pts = A-

87 – 89.99 = B+

83 – 86.99 = B

80 – 82.99 = B-

77 – 79.99 = C+

70 – 76.99 = C

60 – 69.99 = D

59.99 – 0 = F

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.






WK 1 A

4 Sept

Introduction to the course

Mugari Chapter 1 p.1-19

WK 1 B

6 Sept

What is crime? Definitions, constructions and debates

Mugari Chapter 1 p.20-30

WK 2 A

11 Sept

Counting crime: Data sources

American Society of Criminology. Code of Ethics

WK 2 B

13 Sept

Research methods and ethics

On Crimes and Punishments, Cesare Beccaria

Watch Bentham video

WK 3 A

18 Sept

Classical theories of crime and punishment

Mugari Chapter 2


WK 3 B

20 Sept

Neo-classical approaches to crime and prevention

Watch Situational Crime Prevention video

Mugari Chapter 3 pp.51-62

WK 4 A

25 Sept


Biological theories of crime

Mugari Chapter 3 pp. 63-74

WK 4 B

27 Sept


Contemporary biological and psychiatric theories of crime

Black, D. (2013) Bad boys, Bad men. Ch 6.

Watch TED Talk: Strange answers to the psychopath test

WK 5 A

2 Oct


Psychological theories

Read Ending the Poverty to Prison Pipeline


WK 5 B

4 Oct

Criminal subcultures

Mugari Chapter 4


WK 6 A

9 Oct

Social structures theories

Study for exam

WK 6 B

11 Oct

Social structures theories cont’d

Mid-term exam

WK 7 A

16 Oct

Crime trends, criminal careers and social control theories

Mugari Chapter 5

WK 7 B

18 Oct

Interactionism and labelling theories

WK 7 C

20 Oct


MAKE-UP DAY Radical and critical criminology

Mugari Chapter 6


Watch TED Talk: What is it like to have a baby in prison?

WK 8 A

23 Oct

Feminist criminologies

Lyons, et al (2017). Negotiating Violence in the Context of Transphobia and Criminalization: The Experiences of Trans Sex Workers in Vancouver, Canada. Qualitative Health Research, 27, 2, 182-190.

WK 8 B

25 Oct

Queering crime and justice

Finish book reading notes

WK 9 A

30 Oct

Discussion of Venkatesh: Gang Leader for a Day

Or Bourgois: In Search of Respect


WK 9 B

1 Nov



WK 10 A

6 Nov

Student presentations:

Drugs and crime

Nolan, Thorpe Jr. & DeKeseredy, Hate crimes, Ch 19. Routledge Handbook of Critical Criminology

WK 10 B

8 Nov

Student presentations:

Crimes against persons (including hate crimes, youth crimes etc)

Mugari Chapter 7

WK 11 A

13 Nov

Student presentations: White-collar crime/Crimes of the powerful


Lynch, M. J. (2020). Green Criminology and Environmental Crime: Criminology That Matters in the Age of Global Ecological Collapse. Journal of White Collar and Corporate Crime, 1(1), 50–61. https://doi.org/10.1177/2631309X19876930

WK 11 B

15 Nov

Student presentations:

Environmental crimes

Baranauskas, A., & Drakulich, K. (2018). Media construction of crime revisited: Media types, consumer contexts, and frames of crime and justice. Criminology, 56(4), 679–714. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9125.12189

WK 12 A

20 Nov

Student presentations:

Crime and media


WK 12 B

22 Nov

Student presentations:

Open topics


WK 13 A

27 Nov



Issit, M. (2021). Opinions Throughout History: Law Enforcement in America. Ch. 29

PBS: Policing the Police

WK 13 B

29 Nov

Policing, present and future

The power of touch

Ismail, N. (2020). Deterioration, drift, distraction, and denial: How the politics of austerity challenges the resilience of prison health governance and delivery in England. Health Policy, 124, 12, 1368-1378.

WK 14 A

4 Dec

Prisons: politics, economics, goals and outcomes

Mugari Chapter 8

WK 14 B

6 Dec

Introduction to restorative justice

Study for final exam