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Comparative Criminal Justice

Comparative Criminal Justice
Making Sense of Difference

  • David Nelken - King's College London, UK, University of Macerata, Italy

April 2010 | 136 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

David Nelken is the 2013 laureate of the Association for Law and Society International Prize


The increasingly important topic of comparative criminal justice is examined from an original and insightful perspective by David Nelken, one of the top scholars in the field. The author looks at why we should study crime and criminal justice in a comparative and international context, and the difficulties we encounter when we do.


Drawing on experience of teaching and research in a variety of countries, the author offers multiple illustrations of striking differences in the roles of criminal justice actors and ways of handling crime problems. The book includes in-depth discussions of such key issues as how we can learn from other jurisdictions, compare 'like with like', and balance explanation with understanding – for example, in making sense of national differences in prison rates. Careful attention is given to the question of how far globalisation challenges traditional ways of comparing units. The book also offers a number of helpful tips on methodology, showing why method and substance cannot and should not be separated when it comes to understanding other people's systems of justice.


Students and academics in criminology and criminal justice will find this book an invaluable resource.



Compact Criminology is an exciting series that invigorates and challenges the international field of criminology. 


Books in the series are short, authoritative, innovative assessments of emerging issues in criminology and criminal justice – offering critical, accessible introductions to important topics.  They take a global rather than a narrowly national approach.  Eminently readable and first-rate in quality, each book is written by a leading specialist.


Compact Criminology provides a new type of tool for teaching, learning and research, one that is flexible and light on its feet. The series addresses fundamental needs in the growing and increasingly differentiated field of criminology.


Changing Paradigms
Why Compare?
Just Comparison
Ways of Making Sense
Explaining too Much?
The Challenge of the Global
Whose Sense?

A wonderful, masterly overview of criminal justice from a number of comparative perspective. The detail of the differences outlined and the lessons to be drawn is indeed a valuable contribution to the literature using the latest research

Dr John Topping
Fac. of Social Sciences, Ulster University
March 21, 2011

I read the entire manuscript in draft, and my endorsement is printed on the back-cover. My view remains that this is an excellent, pithy and accessible introduction to comparative method in criminal justice, which could contribute to a range of courses at all levels of higher education. For the purposes of my LLM course in Criminal Justice and Globalization, the book will be strongly recommended as essential reading for the first few seminars, which concentrate on theory and method (and theory of method), part of the indispensable toolkit for understanding criminal justice in its increasingly cosmopolitan context.

Professor Paul Roberts
School of Law, Nottingham University
December 22, 2010

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1: Why Compare?

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781847879370
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