Criminal Policy and Politics in times of post-truth

7 Jan 2020 to 17 Jan 2020

Main topics:

-Defining the boundaries between criminal policy and politics.

-The possibilities of evidence-based policy, model experiments and quasi-experimental research

-Punitive populism, symbolic and promotional criminal law: its atmosphere and stakeholders.

-The possibility of substantial criminal justice and responsive criminal law.

- The potential of penal abolitionism.

- Working with case studies.

Description and contextualization of the course:

Criminal policy can be defined as a sector of public policy in response to the dynamics of criminality, victimization and social control. Key subjects of study in criminal policy are the decisions regarding social control in a given place and time. Besides criminal policy has to be thought in relation to victim, police, judicial, penitentiary, education, social, economic and even international policies, in a more and more globalized world. In a broad concept of social control, beyond criminalization, criminal policy has to do with different stakeholders (at the local, regional, state, supranational and international levels). These stakeholders have different positions, influence and interests in the demand, design, implementation and evaluation of the different criminal policies in place.

The course will concentrate on five dimensions of the criminal policy as follows:

a) Divergences in criminal policies taken into consideration the kind of crime (drugs, white-collar criminality, terrorism, gender violence, sexual violence and crimes against property, etcetera).

b) Socio-demographic profiles of offenders and/or victims (including their ethnic or migratory origin).

c) Localization and globalization tendencies in criminal policy.

d) Technology and digital control by the public and private agencies.

e) Evolution of the use of different sanctions.

This course on criminal policy contributes to the objectives of the IISL because it helps in training students to understand, apply, analyze and evaluate criminological knowledge from the critical standpoint of human rights.

The methodology used during this course will allow students to identify relevant information on criminal policy, in different areas and scales, and transform it into knowledge to be applied in the thinking about concrete study cases where the students will have to organize quantitative and qualitative data and arrange it, so that its limitations are underlined in order to get to debatable conclusions.


The thread that runs through the entire course is the thinking about social control: its meanings for the different stakeholders, its diverse modalities, styles, and limits in democratic societies founded on a basic understanding of human rights in times of extremism and inequalities.

This learning proposal tries to promote the integration of knowledge where the student is the main and interactive actor finding the connection with other participants. Beyond a mere transfer of data, we can offer basic concepts as keys or guide to enter into the complexities of criminal policy in order to open perspectives in a critical way. Thus we propose some strategies to learn to look, to see, to observe, to think and to talk about criminal policy transcending public alarm and political manipulation. More readings will be suggested in the student guide to open an internal and external dialogue of ideas in the controversial topics of criminal policies where social values are at stake.

The students, with Johannes Feest and Gema Varona.