criminology and Practical Law

Instructor: malika bell, MS

Price: $600 per semester​

Thursdays 1:45pm-3:45pm

2560 Soquel Avenue Suites 201, 204, 205, Santa Cruz, CA 96062 |   831-331-5611  |

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This is an A-G course and fulfills the "a" requirement 
Course Syllabus
We are thrilled to offer this new one-year criminology and practical law course. This course is designed to familiarize students with the concepts, history, theories, and practices of practical law and criminology in America. Students will understand how the criminal justice system works in the United States and examine the sociological, psychological, and biological theories regarding what causes criminal behavior. Next, they will delve deeper into specific types of crime, including crimes against persons, property, drug crimes, organized crime, and white-collar crime, as well as contemporary topics such as cybercrime, identity theft, intellectual property rights, terrorism, and immigration law. Students will receive a brief overview of a criminal case and understand the roles of the prosecutor, the defense, and the jury. They will briefly explore the components of a case, including evidence, eyewitness statements, and motive. Students will be introduced to consumer law, torts, family law, constitutional law, and the juvenile court system and will understand the difference between civil and criminal courts. Matters like capital punishment and organizations like the Innocence Project will be introduced. Students will gain the ability to analyze and evaluate the effects of the legal system on our society, develop their unique voices as knowledgeable citizens, and be able to make informed decisions.
Unit 1- Introduction to Law and the Legal System

  • What is law?
  • How does the U.S. legal system compare to other legal systems?
  • How is law created?
  • Overview of U.S. judicial structure

Unit 2- Crime in America and Terrorism

  • What is criminal law?
  • Types of crime: Crimes against a person, Crimes against property, “white-collar” crime
  • Organized crime (Italian mafia, Russian mafia, prison gangs, street gangs)
  • School shootings
  • Terrorism

​Unit 3- Biological and Psychological Theories
In this unit, we will consider biological and psychological explanations for crime. We will consider how pollution, hormones, and what we eat may affect whether an individual commits a crime. We will discuss psychological explanations of crime, such as psychoanalytic, modeling, and self-control theories. Finally, we will examine the legal definition of insanity and the use of psychological profiling in solving crimes.
Unit 4: Labeling, Conflict, Environmental, and Radical Theories 
In this unit, we will turn from the biological and psychological explanations for crime discussed in the previous unit to how the environment and social conditions affect crime. In doing so, we will discuss theories such as social disorganization theory, strain theory, conflict theories, and radical criminology. We will examine how negative labeling, inequality, and the physical environment influence crime. 
Unit 5: The Criminal Justice Process

In this unit, we will explore the process of enforcing the law and the court system, the defenses available to those on trial, and the sentencing process after being convicted. First, we will explore what a typical criminal trial looks like, from the rules that police must follow when conducting arrests through the proceedings before trial and the constitutional protections that shape the trial to issues dealing with sentencing and corrections. This unit will have a brief overview of the juvenile court system. Lastly, we will examine the death penalty's history and delve into both sides of the controversy for and against it. 
Unit 6- Consumer and Family Law

  • What is civil law?
  • Torts
  • Contract law 
  • Family law

​Unit 7- Individual Rights and Liberties and Constitutional Law

  • What is constitutional law?
  • U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights
  • Function of the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Individual research: landmark Supreme Court case
  • Group and individual presentations: Rights and freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution

Final Project
A central theme of this course has been how criminology could guide public policy, including laws and punishment.  A new theme in the final unit is the balance of personal freedoms (such as speech and privacy) and the need to be protected from crimes such as global terrorism.  Choose one of these two themes to explore in-depth and relate it to a type of crime covered in this unit.  Conduct outside research in some cyber of global crime, and provide facts and statistics to frame your discussion of the abovementioned topics.  Your paper should be approximately 1000 words and include a works cited page.  You may also have issues from earlier chapters if you find it helpful.