Course Description and Learning Objectives

There is a dearth of OER textbooks in Criminology and Criminal Justice, which made creating and adapting this textbook all the more exciting. At times we faced challenges about what or how much to cover, but our primary goal was to make sure this book was as in-depth as previous textbooks we were using for our CRIMJ 100 and CCJ 230 introduction courses. We have had very positive feedback about the required textbooks in our courses, but consistently heard how expensive the books were to buy. We also needed to ensure we met the learning outcomes outlined by PSU and SOU for a general education course (as well as the state of Oregon) to make sure this textbook helps students meet those outcomes.

PSU’s catalog description for CRIMJ 100 characterizes this course as an “overview of the United States criminal justice system and the major components of police, courts and corrections.” Course topics are meant to include  legal foundations, sources of criminal law, competing and complementary goals within the criminal justice system, types and causes of crime, the extent of crime in the United States, the development of policing, the influence and evolution of the court process, and rehabilitative and reintegrative components of corrections, interactions between various agencies within the criminal justice system, and the impact of crime on victims. This course is all meant to illuminate the ways in which age, gender, race and ethnicity impact and are impacted by the criminal justice system at critical phases. Broadly following the required course content, the specific learning objectives for this section of CRIMJ 100 are listed below.


Learning Objectives

  • Students will gain a critical understanding of the history, structure and culture of the US criminal justice system and its primary components
  • Students will become familiar with the types and incidence of crime at the local, state, and national levels
  • Students will be introduced to several major social scientific theories of crime and its cultural representation
  • Students will practice basic research methods in criminal justice and the social sciences at large

Additionally, myths and controversies are incorporated in the course covering the above-noted content areas in the U.S. criminal justice system. In our experience, this tends to be the most exciting part of the class. It also helps students build all learning outcomes through assignments, readings, and materials covered in class. The primary goal when writing this book was to make it easy to read, with fun examples, thought-provoking discussion questions, and engaging “knowledge checks.” We also endeavored to make it as accessible as possible, thus increasing the likelihood that students would complete the assigned reading. The content level targeted first-year students who are taking their first course in the criminal justice major, but also students pursuing CRIMJ 100 as a general education course.


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Introduction to the U.S. Criminal Justice System Copyright © 2019 by Alison S. Burke, David Carter, Brian Fedorek, Tiffany Morey, Lore Rutz-Burri, and Shanell Sanchez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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