7 August 2021
Sometimes Crime IS the Rational Choice
This course offers an advanced introduction to the various theoretical explanations that criminological and criminal justice researchers use to explain deviant, criminal, and/or criminal justice behaviors and actions. Contrary to popular intuition, most criminological theories suggest that criminal and deviant behaviors are rarely the simple results of poor decision-making or “bad choices.” Instead, many biological, psychological, social, and structural factors often influence the likelihood that someone will decide that such behaviors actually are the “rational choice.” For example, is there really a “crime gene”? Are some races/ethnicities or sexes more likely to commit crime? What is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? Do people really commit crimes as the result of bad parenting or peer pressure? Is everyone who lives in a bad neighborhood a criminal? Is there a conspiracy to use the criminal justice system to oppress poor people and racial/ethnic minorities? Does the death penalty actually deter crime? And, what role do video games actually play? Answering these questions will help us understand how seeing crime as the “wrong” or “bad” choice for many people might truly become the “right” or the “rational” choice for others. And, according to some theories, some people might not have any choice at all.
This course explores the most popular and the most empirically well-supported theories of why people commit crime. Further, we will also consider what such theories mean for the day-to-day duties of criminal justice professionals (e.g., police officers, lawyers, correctional officers) and how they can inform actual criminal justice policies and practices. In other words, we will not only review the abstract and conceptual world of criminological theory, we will also consider how such theories tangibly affect real people outside the classroom and in the real worlds of crime and criminal justice.
This course will be heavily discussion-based and students should expect to complete assigned readings prior to attending class and then be prepared to discuss their thoughts and opinions of those readings during each class meeting. The course will include three short written assignments and one short oral presentation related to the final written assignment.
Zachary Hays, Associate Professor
California State University Bakersfield
Dr. Zachary Hays is an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at California State University Bakersfield. He earned his Ph.D. (2008) and Mas
• Advanced Bachelor
Anyone interested in the major causes of crime (they might not be as simple as you think!) and what the Criminal Justice System can and/or should do about them!
After this course you are able to:
1. Identify and understand with the most important theory of deviance, crime, and criminal justice behaviour,
2. Critically evaluate the logic of, and empirical research on, those theories,
3. Analyze and justify or challenge existing criminal justice policies and practices, and
4. Use those theories to propose new criminal justice policies and practices.
EUR 0: Fee and date will be announced in the fall. Registration opens December 1st 2020. The fee includes the registration fees, course materials, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, lunch, and a number of social activities.