Criminal Justice-COAS | Discretion in Criminal Justice
P493 | 22197 | Luskin
When a police officer uses deadly force, when a prosecutor offers a
reduced plea, when an immigration official detains an asylum seeker,
or when a housing board gives a tenant an extension to pay back
rent, discretion is exercised. We know that discretion is
ubiquitous in criminal justice, yet what do we know of its nature
and exercise? What is the place of individual judgment within a
structure of rules? How do people reach decisions in criminal
justice settings, and how are their choices affected by social,
economic, and political factors? When is discretion
discrimination? How can discretion be limited or guided in
This course will examine the nature of discretion, where and why it
arises, and what influences its exercise. By the end of the
semester, students should be able to analyze the sources of
discretion and the influences on it across a variety of criminal
justice settings. Students also should be able to describe
alternative approaches to improving the exercise of discretion and
to use current research to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of
All required reading for the course will be found in two edited
books and a course reader.
Gelsthorpe, Loraine, and Nicola Padfield, eds. 2003. Exercising
Discretion: Decision-Making in the Criminal Justice System and
Beyond. Portland, Oregon: Willan Publishing.
Walker, Samuel. 1993. Taming the System: The Control of Discretion
in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990. New York: Oxford University
Criminal Justice P493, Discretion in Criminal Justice. ClassPak
Publishing. Indiana University. 2007.
Students' performance will be evaluated through short essays, a
final exercise, and class participation.
Class meeting: Thursdays, 2:30-5:00
Instructor: Professor Mary Lee Luskin, criminal justice department