Special Area

Crime & Justice

Introductory Questions

    • What is a crime, and who decides how serious a crime is? Who should?
    • Are there countries in which those accused of crimes are guilty until proven innocent?
    • How can someone be proven guilty of a crime?
    • What acts are considered crimes in some countries but not in others?
    • To what degree should citizens be involved in law enforcement?
    • Should a person be held responsible for breaking laws he or she doesn’t know about?
    • Should non-citizens be tried differently for crimes than citizens?
    • Should judges or juries be the ultimate arbiters of guilt or innocence?
    • What is the purpose of sending someone to prison?
    • Is it ever just to try one person for another person’s crime?
    • Is there a difference between a crime and a crime against humanity?
    • Is crime more common in certain societies or among certain groups of people?
    • Can a criminal be a hero?
    • Is there such a thing as “honor among thieves”?
    • What is the line, if any, between justice and the law?
    • Should the government be allowed to prosecute someone for a crime even if the victim says not to pursue charges?
    • What is the difference between terrorism and crime?
    • Can something be a crime even if it has no victims?
    • Is anyone who breaks the law a criminal?
    • What type of acts justify trying someone as a war criminal?
    • How should countries address crime that occurs across borders?
    • Should all countries follow the same legal code?

The Bad and the Ugly: Understanding Crime and Criminals

    • A History of Crime: From Pirates to Phishermen
    • The Criminal Mind: Insights from Psychology
    • The Criminal in Society: Insights from Anthropology and Sociology
    • Crime as Spectacle: Postmodern Perspectives on Criminology

Codes of Misconduct: Prosecution & Punishment

    • Hammurabi, Draco, and Other Early Approaches
    • Modern Legal Systems: Common | Civil | Religious | Statutory
    • Classifications of Crime: Personal | Property | Inchoate | Statutory | Other
    • Crime Investigation and Criminal Apprehension
    • Courthouse Party: The Judicial Process Around the World  
    • Types of Punishment: Deterrence | Retribution | Rehabilitation | Incapacitation
    • The International Criminal Court: Crime in a Globalized World

CSI: The Science of… (Examples)

    • Fingerprints | Genetic Testing | Blood Spatter | Autopsies
    • Scene Recognition & Examination | Sketches | Evidence Collection
    • Forensic Entomology | Trace Evidence | Serology | Simulations
    • DNA Profiling | Offender Profiling | Forensics

Types of Crime to Research (Examples)

    • Felonies vs. Misdemeanors | White Collar vs. Blue Collar
    • Theft | Robbery | Burglary | Vandalism
    • Assault | Laundering | Extortion | Blackmail | Embezzlement
    • Caper | Heist | Conspiracy | Fraud | Larceny | Hate Crimes
    • Trafficking | Kidnapping | Classic & Digital Piracy | 419

Notorious Crimes & Capers (Examples)

    • The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist | The Agricultural Bank of China Robbery 
    • Fortaleza Banco Central Robbery | KLM Diamond Heist | Lufthansa Heist
    • Salish Sea Foot Mystery | Great Train Robbery

Notable Criminals to Research (Examples)

    • Billy the Kid | Robin Hood | Bonnie & Clyde | Al Capone | DB Cooper
    • Charles Manson | Charles Ponzi | Frank Abagnale | James Hogue
    • Barefoot Bandit | Los Zetas | Zodiac Killer | Postcard Bandit
    • Griselda Blanco | Jacques Mesrine | El Chapo | Vassilis Paleokostas
    • Jonathan Tokeley-Parry | Philippe Jamin | Patty Hearst | Unabomber
    • Moriarty | Hannibal Lecter | Walter White | Dexter | the Joker 

Additional Terms to Learn (Examples)

    • Cartels | Mafia | Syndicate | Extradition
    • Jury | Reasonable Doubt | Attorneys | Bail | Witnesses
    • Types of Pleas | Eyewitnesses | Arraignment | Sentencing
    • Alibi | Corrections | Corporeal & Capital Punishment
    • Parole | Rehabilitation | Probation | Appeals | Double Jeopardy

Selected Film: Ocean’s Eleven

Additional Questions & Cases to Discuss (Examples)

    • Study the Yakuza as an example of criminal organizations around the world. How does this so-called "Japanese mafia" differ from its counterparts in other countries? Is there a role for such organizations in civilized society?
    • When and how should technology be used to enable citizens to assist police in solving crimes? Are there ways in which inviting citizen participation could be counterproductive?
    • Learn more about the debate over "amber alerts". Some find them to be effective; others believe they only increase public anxiety. How could they be improved?
    • Research the death penalty. Is it legal in your country? Does it help reduce crime rates? When, if ever, is it appropriate for the state to execute a person, and, if so, by what means?
    • Consider the phenomenally successful Serial podcast (season 1). Is it ever appropriate for the media to sensationalize a crime—or to reopen a seemingly closed investigation?
    • Research vigilante justice, including this ongoing Facebook-driven movement in Peru. Is it ever appropriate for citizens to take the law into their own hands?
    • Are three strikes laws a mistake?
    • Does the Internet increase crime?
    • Is it ever appropriate to use racial profiling to help solve or prevent crimes?
    • Some studies show that women are committing more crimes than in the past. What might explain this, and is there a difference in the crimes that men and women commit?
    • Do you think crime is getting worse in your country? Why do so many Americans believe crime rates are increasing in the United States even though they are lower than ever?