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Historical Perspectives In Criminal Justice

Course Code: CRIM 1121
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Criminology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course is a historical review of society's reaction to crime and deviance and the operation of the criminal justice system in Europe and North America over the centuries. This history relates to various political, legal, social, theoretical, philosophical movements and schools of thought. The development of criminal law is traced through the development of the police institution, the courts, the birth of the prison and other secure institutions designed to control the deviant. The history, transformation and evolution of punishment and imprisonment practice that seemingly molds itself independent of actual crime, criminality and perceived deviancy in society are considered. Students conduct in-depth examination of historical forces influencing the development, implementation, and modification of criminal justice approaches.

Course Content

Lecture and Reading:

  1. Theoretical perspectives in Criminal Justice.
  2. Criminal law in ancient times.
  3. The emergence of criminal law and the evolving concept of crime and the criminal in England.
  4. The development of criminal law in America.
  5. Racism and the law.
  6. Slavery and post-emancipation law in America.
  7. The emergence of the police institution in England and America.
  8. The development of the police institution in Canada including provincial and municipal police forces.
  9. The history of drug laws and the alcohol prohibition era in North America.
  10. The history of eugenics theory in North America.
  11. Control of the "insane" and the rise of "mental institutions" in North America.
  12. The emergence and growth of the workhouse and the prison system in England and North America.
  13. 18th century reform of the prison, the Pennsylvania and Auburn prison systems.
  14. Convict labor, transportation and convict leasing.
  15. A history of women’s prisons.
  16. Historical correctional practices and the Indigenous peoples of North America, including residential schools.
  17. The development of the juvenile justice system.

Methods of Instruction


Field Study: The Instructor may undertake field trips to historical prison sites and courts in the US, Canada and other jurisdictions as determined.

Film and Web-based Resources

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on the course objectives and carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.   The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the course.  Evaluation will be based on the following:

  1. Examinations: midterm and final
  2. Class participation
  3. Term paper, project or presentation

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Mid term  30%
Final  30%
Term paper  30%
Class Participation        10%
Total 100%


Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the student will be able to:


  1. Discuss the importance of politics in any consideration of crime and criminal justice development.
  2. Describe and analyze the concepts of freedom and liberty as they relate to deviant individuals or groups in a democratic and capitalist society.
  3. Identify historical evidence of the persistence of classism, racism and sexism in European, American and Canadian culture in the development of the criminal class.
  4. Identify political and legal forces that changed social attitudes over time towards inequality, poverty and marginalization.
  5. Describe the ways in which religious values and themes have shaped criminal justice issues and practices.
  6. Demonstrate in writing an in-depth understanding of the historical strategies and reactions to criminality and deviance.
  7. Identify and articulate current-day criminal justice challenges based on an accurate knowledge of the historical development of social control and criminal justice approaches.
  8. Compare and contrast 19th and 20th century correctional and criminal justice practice with innovative approaches to criminal justice in the new millennia.
  9. Apply academic research and writing skills for the required term paper.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.