John Jay College’s Introduction to the American Criminal Justice System class generally breaks down into three sections: policing, law, and the courts. It is the first course that students should take in the major. Ideally, it should be listed in the catalog and on CUNY First as a prerequisite for the other criminal justice courses offered at your college. Because it requires a good deal of writing, it is also recommended that ENG 101 and 102 are listed as prerequisites.
Below is a sample syllabus used by John Jay College instructors. You don’t have to use this. Indeed, you shouldn’t use this without adopting if to you and your college. But this can help you make your own syllabus, which should cover much of the same material.
INTRODUCTION TO THE AMERICAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
This course is an introductory survey of the American criminal justice system with a view to its social and institutional context and its structure and functioning. The course provides an overview of the foundations and components of the criminal justice system, including (substantive and procedural) criminal law, police, courts, and corrections. The main emphasis will be placed on the criminal justice process and how the various institutions of criminal justice interact. Key issues will be addressed as they arise at different stages of the process, such as the conflict between crime control and due process, and conflicts related to, for example, gender, class, and ethnicity.
This course will describe from a historical and systematic perspective the institutions of the American criminal justice system and how they relate to each other. With sufficient study and regular attendance, students are expected to develop the following skills and knowledge base by the conclusion of the course.
- Students will develop analytical, ethical, and critical reasoning skills through writing assignments and participation in class discussions.
- Students will develop the ability to effectively locate information.
- Students will develop the ability to integrate and contrast information from different sources and to present this information in writing in a clear, coherent, and systematic way.
- Students will gain an understanding of the American criminal justice system with a view to its social and institutional context and its structure and functioning. This includes an understanding of the importance of issues of diversity embedded in the field of criminal justice.
- Students will gain an understanding of why societies punish certain behavior in the first place, how the law distinguishes between lawful and unlawful behavior, and what legal safeguards have been established in democratic societies against unfair and unreasonable punishment.
- Students will gain an understanding of how and why crimes are committed and what this means for individual victims and for society.
- Students will gain an understanding of the sequence of events that leads to the determination of guilt or innocence of an individual alleged to have committed a crime. Students will also learn about the various criminal justice institutions, including police, courts, and corrections, and how they interact at the various stages of the criminal justice process
- Students will gain an understanding of why and how offenders are punished, and what the individual and social consequences of punishment are.
- Readings should be completed before each class.
- There will be two exams (a midterm take-home essay and a final in-class exam). The final exam is cumulative and includes all material covered in class.
- The midterm exam will be a take-home essay (800–1,200 words). The professor will provide four essay questions, from which you will choose one to answer. The midterm exam has to be returned on its due date. Late papers will be penalized five points per day late.
- One term paper (1,000–2,000 words) will be required, which will involve the use of several outside sources based on independent research as well as the course materials. The topic of the term paper is a criminal justice topic of the student’s choice, but should be agreed upon in advance with the professor. The professor is available for consultation during office hours or by appointment if a student would like some paper suggestions or to talk over potential topics. In addition, session 17 of the course will be devoted to helping students understand and meet the requirements of a term paper, bringing students up to speed with the expectations of a college term paper in the field of criminal justice while also building their skills to meet those expectations. As such, session 17, and parts of other sessions as needed, will cover such skills as writing a thesis statement, citations, and structuring the body of the paper to support a thesis statement. The paper should be turned in on its due date. Late papers will be penalized five points per day late.
- In addition to the two exams and the term paper, there will be 5–7 unannounced in-class quizzes to monitor student progress.
- All written assignments will be turned in using www.turnitin.com. This applies to the midterm take-home exam as well as the term paper. As you may already know, John Jay College subscribes to this online plagiarism prevention service. All students must submit both (a) a hard copy of their paper to the professor, AND (b) an electronic version to turnitin.com. The professor uses the turnitin.com software as proof that students have met the deadline. A student will not receive grade until he or she submits an electronic version of the assignment to turnitin.com. Assignments submitted to turnitin.com will be included in its restricted access database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. Students may not submit an electronic version of a written assignment to Turnitin in advance of the due date to “test” the assignment’s originality. Students may not submit material for this course that has been or is being used for written assignments in other courses. Students need to log in as new users (upperright corner of the home page). Our class ID is xxxxxxxxx and our password is xxxxxxxx. The professor encourages students to log in at the beginning of the semester. The professor also uses the turnitin.com system to send class emails (for example, possible changes in the reading material).
- Other short assignments may be given, which will count towards the class participation grade.
- Students will be given extra-credit points for John Jay College–organized activities that they attend outside of class time. These activities (lectures, films, etc.) must be approved by the professor in order for students to receive extra credit, and students must write up a one-page summary after the event (see the form to use at the end of this syllabus). One point will be given for each event, and a total of five points may be earned.
Regular attendance is important, since good performance on the exams requires knowledge of material presented in classes, which is not always fully covered in the course textbook. Hence, any absence is likely to affect grades. Missing more than four sessions will result in a reduced grade. Missing more than a third of the class (ten sessions or more) will result in a failing grade.
No makeup tests or exams will be given unless proper documentation for medical or other emergencies is produced.
1. Arrive on time. Late arrival is disruptive to the students and the professor.
2. Please remain in the classroom for the entire period.
3. Pay attention to the lecture or discussion going on in the classroom. Classroom activities are centered on teaching and learning. Any activity that does not contribute to these processes is not allowed.
4. Food may not be brought into or consumed in the classroom.
5. No cell phone calls or texting, unless you have an impending emergency (in which case, please set your ringer to vibrate).
Violating any of the above rules may result in a reduced grade.
THE CUNY POLICY ON ACADEMIC INTEGRITY:
I. Academic dishonesty is prohibited at The City University of New York and is punishable by penalties, which may include failing grades, suspension, and expulsion. Cheating is the unauthorized use or attempted use of material, information, notes, study aids, devices, or communication during an academic exercise. The following are some examples of cheating, but by no means is the list exhaustive:
- Copying from another student during an examination or allowing another to copy your work.
- Unauthorized collaboration on a take-home assignment or examination.
- Using notes during a closed-book examination.
- Taking an examination for another student, or asking or allowing another student to take an examination for you.
- Changing a graded exam and returning it for more credit.
- Submitting substantial portions of the same paper to more than one course without receiving advance permission from each instructor to do so.
- Preparing answers or writing notes in a blue book (exam booklet) before an examination.
- Allowing others to research and write papers that have been assigned to you, or to do projects that have been assigned to you. This includes the use of commercial term paper services.
- Giving assistance to acts of academic misconduct / dishonesty.
- Fabricating data (all or in part).
- Submitting someone else’s work as your own.
- Unauthorized use during an examination of any electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, or other technologies to retrieve or send information.
II. Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research, or writings as your own. Much research requires paraphrasing and summarizing the ideas or work of others, but when you do so, you should identify the original author and source in a way that the reader can verify that this person actually presented the ideas in question.
The following are some examples of plagiarism, but by no means is the list exhaustive:
- Copying another person’s actual words without the use of quotation marks and without attributing the words to their source.
- Presenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging the source.
- Using information that is not common knowledge without acknowledging the source.
- Failing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments.
- Internet plagiarism includes submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the internet without citing the source, and “cutting and pasting” from various sources without proper attribution.
Final grades will be determined as follows:
Midterm exam (take-home exam) 30%
Final exam (in-class exam) 30%
Term paper 30%
Participation, quizzes 10%
Absence for five or more sessions will result in a lower grade. Absence for ten or more sessions will result in a failing grade.
93.0–100.0 = A
90.0–92.9 = A-
87.1–89.9 = B+
83.0–87 = B
80.0–82.9 = B-
77.1–79.9 = C+
73.0–77.9 = C
70.0–72.9 = C-
67.1–69.9 = D+
63.0–67.0 = D
60.0–62.9 = D-
below 60 = F
Regoli, R.M., & Hewitt, J.D. (2008). Exploring criminal justice. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
After the first two sessions, which focus on writing, the course is divided into three parts: Criminal Law, Crime, the Criminal Justice Process, and Punishment and Alternatives to Punishment.
Session 1: Course introduction: The structure and process of criminal justice in the U.S.
-- Writing diagnostic given (due in one week)
The writing diagnostic is a short (500 words) writing assignment that will not be graded. It gives the professor a basis for assessing the analytical and writing skills of students at the onset of the course and provides an opportunity for giving individualized feedback on how to overcome existing weaknesses in writing an academic paper.
Session 2: Literature search and APA style workshop
Required reading: Clarke, R.V. & Schultze, P.A. (2005). Researching a problem. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. Available online at: http://www.popcenter.org/tools/pdfs/ResearchingProblem.pdf
PART I: CRIMINAL LAW
This part of the course introduces students to the historical origins and function of criminal law in society. It also provides an understanding of key concepts of criminal law and how these concepts define criminal behavior and the criminal justice process. Students will gain an understanding of why societies punish certain behavior in the first place, how the law distinguishes between lawful and unlawful behavior, and what legal safeguards have been established in democratic societies against unfair and unreasonable punishment.
Session 3: Criminal Law 1 (Historical Origins and Purpose of Criminal Law)
-- Writing diagnostic due
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 2, pp. 30–37
Session 4: Criminal Law 2 (Key Concepts of Criminal Law: Elements of Crime, Responsibility)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 2, pp. 37–50
Session 5: Criminal Law 3 (Criminal Procedure and the Constitutional Framework: Due Process)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 2, pp. 50–58, and Appendix
PART II: CRIME
This part of the course introduces students to the nature and extent of crime in American society. Particular emphasis is placed on issues of gender and ethnicity with regard to offending and victimization. The starting point is the assumption that crime is the result of motivated offenders exploiting opportunities. Following an examination of the mechanics of criminal behavior, common classifications of crime and the main theories of crime causation will be reviewed.
Students will gain an understanding of how and why crimes are committed, and what this means for individual victims and for society.
Session 6: Crime 1 (Offenders and Opportunities)
Required reading: Lamm-Weisel, D. (2007). Bank robbery. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. Available online at: http://www.popcenter.org/problems/pdfs/bank_robbery.pdf
Session 7: Crime 2 (Classifications and Measurement of Crimes, Offenders and Victims)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 3Additional source material
Session 8: Crime 3 (Theories of Crime: Individual-Level Explanations)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 3
Session 9: Crime 4 (Theories of Crime: Societal-Level Explanations)Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 4
Session 10: How to Write a Criminal Justice Essay
-- Midterm essay questions handed out (choose one topic and answer in 800–1,200 words; deadline: one week)
Required reading: http://www1.aucegypt.edu/academic/writers/home.htm
PART III: THE PROCESS OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE
This part of the course introduces students to the criminal justice process. Students will gain an understanding of the sequence of events that leads to the determination of guilt or innocence of an individual alleged to have committed a crime. Students will also learn about the various criminal justice institutions, including police, courts, and corrections and how they interact at the various stages of the criminal justice process.
Session 11: Overview of Criminal Justice Institutions
Required reading: Textbook: Chapters 1, 5
Session 12: Overview of the Criminal Justice Process
-- Midterm exam is due
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 1
Session 13: Investigative Phase 1 (Investigation and Evidence Collection, Discretion, Biases in Reporting, Detecting and Investigating Crimes)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapters 6, 7
Session 14: Investigative Phase 2 (Court-approved measures – electronic surveillance, arrest)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 11
Session 15: The Public Prosecutor
Required reading: Textbook: Chapters 9, 10
Session 16: The Defense Attorney
Required reading: Textbook: Chapters 9, 10
Session 17: How to Write a Criminal Justice Research Paper
Required reading: Writing Center (John Jay)
The Writing Center @ University of Wisconsin – Madison
Session 18: Pre-Trial Proceedings 1 (Grand Jury, Preliminary Hearing, Arraignment, Bail, Plea Bargaining)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 10
Session 19: Pre-Trial Proceedings 2 (Pre-Trial Motions, Right to Speedy Trial, Jury Selection, Bench Trial vs. Jury Trial)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 11
Session 20: Trial 1 (The Roles of Prosecutor, Defense Counsel and Judge, Trial Strategies, Courtroom Workgroup,)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 11
Session 21: Trial 2 (Presentation of Evidence, Reliability of Evidence – especially witness testimony, Expert Testimony)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 11
Session 22: Trial 3 (Verdict, Sentencing Process, Appeal)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapters 11, 12
PART IV: PUNISHMENT/ALTERNATIVES TO PUNISHMENT
This part of the course will introduce students to the different philosophies and forms of punishment, as well as alternatives to punishment. Special emphasis will be placed on issues of age, gender, and ethnicity. Students will gain an understanding of why and how offenders are punished, and what the individual and social consequences of punishment are.
Session 23: Types of Sentences (Determinate/Indeterminate, Mandatory, Concurrent vs. Consecutive, etc., Disparities in Sentencing), Philosophies and Forms of Punishment (Overview)
Required reading: Textbook: Chapters 12, 13
Session 24: Custodial Sentences, Death Penalty
Required reading: Textbook: Chapters 12, 13, 14
Session 25: Non-Custodial Sentences, Community-Based Corrections, Restorative Justice
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 15
Session 26: The Juvenile Justice System
Required reading: Textbook: Chapter 16
Session 27: Catch-Uup Day, Review for Final Exam
Session 28: Final Exam
-- Final paper due (www.turnitin.com)