This collection provides overviews ofnearly 100 key criminal justice research topics comprising traditional criminology and its more modern interdisciplinary outgrowths. These topics are divided into six thematic parts:
- Correlates of Crime
- Criminology Theories
- Crime Research
- Types of Crime
- Criminal Justice System
Criminology and Criminal Justice Research Topics
Research Topics in Criminology:
Research Topics in Crime and Victimization:
Research Topics in Criminology Theories:
Research Topics in Criminology Research and Measurement:
Research Topics in Types of Crime:
Research Topics in Criminal Justice System:
The study of criminal justice and criminology has experienced tremendous growth over the last years, which is evident, in part, by the widespread popularity and increased enrollment in criminology and criminal justice departments at the undergraduate and graduate levels, both across the United States and internationally. An evolutionary paradigmatic shift has accompanied this criminological surge in definitional, disciplinary, and pragmatic terms. Though long identified as a leading sociological specialty area, criminology has emerged as a stand-alone discipline in its own right, one that continues to grow and is clearly here to stay. Today, criminology remains inherently theoretical but is also far more applied in focus and thus more connected to the academic and practitioner concerns of criminal justice and related professional service fields. Contemporary study of criminology and criminal justice is also increasingly interdisciplinary and thus features a broad variety of research topics on the causes, effects, and responses to crime.
Because just listing suggestions for criminal justice research topics will be of limited value we have included short topical overviews and suggestions for narrowing those topics and divided them into 6 parts as in the list above. If you’re interested in some topic in the list follow the links below for more information.
Examplecriminal justice research paperson these topics have been designed to serve as sources of model papers for most criminological topics. These research papers were written by several well-known discipline figures and emerging younger scholars who provide authoritative overviews coupled with insightful discussion that will quickly familiarize researchers and students alike with fundamental and detailed information for each criminal justice topic.
This collection begins by defining the discipline of criminology and observing its historical development (Part I: Criminology). The various social (e.g., poverty, neighborhood, and peer/family influences), personal (e.g., intelligence, mental illness), and demographic (e.g., age, race, gender, and immigration) realities that cause, confound, and mitigate crime and crime control are featured inPart II: Correlates of Crime. The research papers in this section consider each correlate’s impact, both independently and in a broader social ecological context. The sociological origins of theoretical criminology are observed across several research papers that stress classical, environmental, and cultural influences on crime and highlight peer group, social support, and learning processes. Examination of these criminological theory research papers quickly confirms the aforementioned interdisciplinary nature of the field, with research papers presenting biological, psychological, and biosocial explanations and solutions for crime (Part III: Criminology Theories).
Part IV: Criminology Research provides example research papers on various quantitative and qualitative designs and techniques employed in criminology research. Comparison of the purposes and application of these research methods across various criminal justice topics illustrates the role of criminologists as social scientists engaged in research enterprises wherein single studies fluctuate in focus along a pure–applied research continuum. This section also addresses the measurement of crimes with attention to major crime reporting and recording systems.
Having established a theoretical–methodological symmetry as the scientific foundation of criminology, and increasingly the field of criminal justice,Part V: Types of Crimeconsiders a wide range of criminal offenses. Each research paper in this section thoroughly defines its focal offense and considers the related theories that frame practices and policies used to address various leading violent, property, and morality crimes. These research papers also present and critically evaluate the varying level of empirical evidence, that is, research confirmation, for competing theoretical explanations and criminal justice system response alternatives that are conventionally identified as best practices.
Ostensibly, an accurate and thorough social science knowledge base stands to render social betterment in terms of reduced crime and victimization through the development of research–based practices. This science–practitioner relationship is featured, advocated, and critiqued in the research papers of the final section,Part VI: Criminal Justice System. Here, the central components of criminal justice research paper topics (law enforcement, courts, and corrections) are presented from a criminology–criminal justice outlook that increasingly purports to leverage theory and research (in particular, program evaluation results) toward realizing criminal justice and related social policy objectives. Beyond the main system, several research papers consider the role and effectiveness of several popular justice system and wrap-around component initiatives (e.g., specialty courts, restorative justice, and victim services).
See also: Domestic Violence Research Topics and School Violence Research Topics.
The following are topics related to the application of restorative justice. These may be useful to launch further research or to identify paper topics. Go to the RJ Library to start your research.
Restorative justice draws from aboriginal teachings, and yet there may be tension between the two. These articles address the dynamic linkage that exists in attempting to adapt aboriginal concepts and practices for used in restorative programmes.
The Bible was a source of inspiration for many who constructed the institutions of contemporary criminal justice. It was also a resource for some of the early practitioners of restorative justice. Its influence on both groups continues. The following articles examine the relationship between biblical justice and restorative justice.
While unhealthy dynamics and violent behaviors in families lead to the intervention of government officials to protect children, these same families often have resources and knowledge needed to break the cycles of negative behaviors. Restorative practices -- such as family group conferencing -- offers an opportunity of involving extended family members and social service agencies and the troubled families in the process of find responses and solutions.
An initiative to build ties between communities and the criminal justice system in order to prevent crime, repair harm and build communities.
Sometimes linked to restorative values, these approaches to policing emphasize strong relationships between police officers and community members with an orientation toward helping the community solve problems.
The role lawyers should play in restorative justice programmes is an provocative and complex issue. On one hand, defense lawyers are used to speaking for their clients and restorative processes require the parties to speak for themselves. Nevertheless, a lawyer can be an important safeguard against due process and human rights violations. These articles address these and related matters.
Domestic violence presents unique challenges and opportunities to restorative justice practitioners. On one hand, the restorative process of taking responsibility, addressing past harm and planning for a better future can look very much like domestic violence syndrome. On the other, restorative responses can offer alternatives to a victim who has kept silence out of fear that the abuser will be arrested and the family's means of support ended. These articles address this important area.
Driving While Intoxicated
The consequences of driving while intoxicated can be profound and devastating, and yet the culpability of the driver is related to the decision to drive while impaired -- the harm caused was not the result of a deliberate attempt to cause harm. These stories and articles discuss issues related to driving while intoxicated.
Criminal defendants -- and victims -- have fundamental human rights that must be respected in any state-sanctioned proceeding. A variety of legal protections have been established over the centuries, but for the most part these anticipate a formal legal process. How can the benefits of informal processes be gained without jeopardizing the human rights of the parties? How can those rights be observed without formalizing the informal restorative processes?
Elder abuse usually takes place where the victim lives. This is often in their home or in the home of a relative with whom they live. It also occurs in institutions that care for the elderly. Consequently the harm is not only the physical or mental trauma that results, but also the betrayal of trust that the abuse represents. These articles address restorative responses to these issues.
Environmental crime harms communities and the people living in them in multiple ways. Sometimes those harms continue for generations. These articles discuss the potential of restorative justice as a response.
Gangs pose a special challenge to communities and to law enforcement because of the power they are able to exert over the lives of people within their communities. Can restorative processes work when dealing with individuals from violent, tight-knit organizations? These articles discuss that issue.
Hate crimes are directed at victims because of their affiliation with a group against which the offenders have chosen to take action. Not only do victims suffer from direct injuries, they must also come to terms with the deep malice and bias that motivated the crime. These articles address restorative responses.
Perhaps surprisingly, restorative justice has been used extensively between murderers and the survivors of those they killed. On most occasions, restorative processes take place long after a sentence has been imposed, because of the length of time required for the survivors to become ready for this form of intervention. These articles describe and discuss this use of restorative justice.
The over-representation of minorities in the criminal justice system is a well-known and apparently intractable problem. It reflects larger societal problems in dealing with race and class. How does restorative justice contribute to the problem or to a solution? These articles consider this critical issue.
Restorative processes provide an opportunity for neighbors to develop their own solutions to their conflicts while building more understanding and stronger relationships.
Police and Aboriginal Populations
When police use restorative interventions, the strength of their relationships with the community is a key factor in how restorative the experience actually is for the participants. This is particularly true when the community is Aboriginal.
Cautioning is the term used in some countries for a formal police warning used as a diversion from prosecution. Often conditions are imposed on the offender, and in restorative cautioning those may include meeting with willing victims or community representatives, making apologies, paying restitution or performing community service.
Police complaints boards are using restorative processes to resolve community complaints against officers.
Any institution must have political support or it will erode or disappear. This is certainly true for restorative justice. But is there an influence in the other direction -- can restorative principles and values help shape political discourse?
Shame is a powerful emotion. Some have suggested that restorative justice allows offenders to experience and then remove a sense of shame for their behavior. These articles discuss the usefulness or destructiveness of including shame as a part of restorative justice theory and practice.
Is there a role for punishment in restorative justice? And if so, how is it different from punishment as we use it now?
While South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has received significant attention, it was neither the first nor the last Truth Commission appointed. This section organizes articles on the topic by country.
Restorative justice underscores the need for victims' harms to be repaired to the extent possible. Compensation and restitution are two ways this may be done. Restitution is paid by the offender, while compensation is paid by the government. These are articles on compensation and the issues it raises.