Crime, criminal law, and criminal justice are more than ever on the political agenda of national governments, in Europe and in the US. Widespread concern about rising crime, “insecurity” and anti-social behavior and new analyses of crime are leading to a hardening of police, judicial and correctional policies and practices across Europe. What are the most serious crime problems the Spanish and other Europeans face in the new millennium? Is Barcelona an unsafe city? How do European cities handle gang violence, drug crime, and juvenile transgression and how do European analysts explain these phenomena? As recent urban riots in England and France and the Spanish “Indignados” movement suggest, are we entering an age of large-scale civil disturbance? Are Europe and Spain, in particular, experiencing an epidemic of violence against women? With the US policing at the center of a nationwide debate, does Europe provide policing models that deliver better results? Why are prison populations five times lower in Spain and in much of Western Europe than in the US? Do crime and justice topics occupy as central a position in the political debate as in the US? How much do crime stories feature in Spanish mass media news and entertainment? Is criminal justice policy converging or is there a widening divide between American and European cultures of crime control?
The course will provide an introduction to some of the key theoretical perspectives and issues relating to crime and criminals, the principal legislative measures of crime control and the way in which criminal justice systems work - from policing and the court system through to the penal system. Taking off as a micro-study of Barcelona, the aim is to locate local criminological and criminal justice policies, practices and trends within the wider context of the EU. Throughout the course, attention will also be paid to the representation of crime in the Spanish and European media and the consequences of media images of crime. The course crosses disciplinary boundaries, incorporating perspectives from sociology, law, political science, anthropology, cultural studies, and history. By adopting a comparative cross-national perspective and outlining the findings of the expanding field of comparative criminology and comparative criminal justice studies, the course will provide students with a unique insight into the specific cultural patterns, historical traditions, social codes and institutional developments of different European countries.
The course is divided into two sections. The first section will examine different theories of crime causation, with a particular emphasis on traditional and new, emerging approaches to street gangs, youth violence and domestic violence in the Spanish and European contexts. These phenomena have been selected because they will provide an introduction to how thinking about crime intersects with issues of class, race, ethnicity, youth, and gender. The second section of the course will examine recent trends and patterns in criminal justice policies and practices in different European countries.