The Struggle to Move Beyond Description in Comparative Studies

Philip L. Reichel, University of Northern Colorado

Descriptive accounts are the necessary first step in developing and advancing the field of comparative criminology and criminal justice. Over the last several decades scholars and practitioners have provided an essential base of professional articles, books, and government documents that describe domestic crime in a variety of countries and offer intriguing accounts of the criminal justice process in countries around the world. As we take stock of comparative criminology and criminal justice, it becomes apparent that we must now move to more analytical endeavors. Comparative criminology has more successfully applied theory to an understanding of how and why crime rates differ across countries than has comparative justice applied theory to understand how justice agencies operate in different countries. But both of those versions of comparative studies seem ready for the next step. This paper reviews reasons why comparative analysis will be increasingly important in the twenty-first century, and argues for particular attention to transnational crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006