jennifer schwartz
department of sociology
washington state university
Sociology 361 : Criminology
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Course Description

This course is designed to dispel myths and popular misconceptions about the extent of crime and violence and about who commits crime in the United States. After developing an understanding of the basic contours of criminal offending, we use crime theories to help us understand why some people engage in crime and others do not, why some communities have higher crime rates than others, and why crime rates are high during some periods of history and low in others. Students will also come away with a better understanding of what has influenced their own decisions regarding involvement in crime. Additional topics include: defining what is criminal, measuring criminal offending, media portrayals of crime, and characteristics of offenses such as homicide, burglary, drunk driving, and prostitution. These issues and topics are presented using a sociological perspective, meaning that students will become more aware of the social forces shaping offending patterns and official reactions to it.


Reading Summaries and In-Class Quizzes (100 points)

Reading Summaries: To reinforce important material from the lectures, enhance your comprehension, and gauge attendance, I utilize in-class, open note pop quizzes on the lecture and I randomly collect your brief (3-5 sentence) daily summary of the assigned reading(s).

Uniform Crime Report Project (100 points)

To gain familiarity with the primary source of official crime statistics used by law enforcement and other government officials, academics, journalists, and others, you will use these statistics to write a crime report on your hometown that identifies the nature and extent of the crime problem. You will use a comparative perspective to contextualize the crime problem, meaning you’ll compare your town’s most current crime statistics to past statistics or to the crime stats of comparable, neighboring towns.

Debate Outline (75 points)

To sharpen your research expertise, organizational abilities, and presentation skills and to remain informed about current issues in criminology, each member of the class will participate in a loosely structured debate on one of several topics chosen by the class. Prior to the debate, each individual will submit an outline detailing your position and evidence, with citations, to support your stance.

Crime Theory Paper Assignment (100 points)

To build critical thinking skills, you will analyze your own criminal (or conforming) behavior using a crime theory learned in class. This paper requires you to evaluate criminological theories and apply abstract theoretical concepts to your personal experiences (or to someone you know well). This exercise will better your understanding of why people might commit crime, why some people are more likely than others to offend, and how changes in life circumstances are related to entry or exit from crime. Hopefully, this exercise will also help you analyze and understand your own behavior as well.





Definitions of Crime

Orcutt, Tappan

Orcutt and Tappan Readings

Perspectives on the Origins of Crime

Best, Joel

1999. “Connections among Claims: The Context for New Social Problems.” Pp. 162-179 in Random Violence: How We Talk About New Crimes and New Victims.  University of California Press.

Crime Statistics

Blumstein, Alfred

1998.  “U.S. Criminal Justice Conundrum: Rising Prison Populations and Stable Crime Rates. Crime and Delinquency 44(1):127-135.

Crime Statistics

Rand and Rennison

True Crime Stories? Accounting for Differences in Our National Crime Indicators.

Trends in Female Crime

Steffensmeier and Schwartz

2004.  “Trends in Female Criminality:  Is Crime Still A Man’s World?”  in The Criminal Justice System and Women, Barbara Raffel Price and Natalie J. Sokoloff (eds.)

Trends in Juvenile Crime

Dilulio, John

The Coming of the Super-Predators”  November 27, 1995  The Weekly Standard

Trends in Juvenile Crime

OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin

“Juvenile Arrests” by Howard Snyder;  December 2003

Race and Crime

Peterson and Krivo

2005. Macrostructural Analyses of Race, Ethnicity, and Violent Crime: Recent Lessons and New Directions for Research. Annual Review of Sociology 31:331-56.

Deterrence and Drunk Driving

Evans, Neville, and Graham

1991. General Deterrence of Drunk Driving: Evaluation of Recent American Policies. Risk Analysis 11(2): 279-289.  SKIM section 4; Get main point of section 5

Social Control: Family Structure and Crime

DeMuth and Brown

2004. Family structure, family processes, and adolescent delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 41(1):58-81.

Opportunity Theory

Cloward and Ohlin

 "Illegitimate Means and Delinquent Subcultures"

 Homicide  Schwartz

Forthcoming, 2008.  Murder in a comparative context. In Violent Crime: Clinical and Social Implications, edited by Christopher J. Ferguson. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Social Disorganization and Robbery

Jacobs and Wright

1999.  Stick up, street culture, and offender motivation. Criminology 37 (1), 149-174

Impact of Police on Communities

Anderson, Elijah

Police and the Black Male” Pp. 190-206 in Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Impact of Imprisonment on Families

A Sentence of Their Own

“Children of Incarcerated Parents” by Jose Santana


Impact of Imprisonment on Families

Mumola, Christopher (Bureau of Justice Statistics

“Incarcerated Children and Their Parents” August 2000 BJS Special Report NCJ 182335