Syllabus for Economics of Crime ECON 4950/ CJ 4950:
team-taught by Dr. Elaine Peterson and Dr. Diana Grant
Offered at California State University, Stanislaus by Economics Dept., Spring 2000, for 4 units

Class meets MWF 2:30-3:28 p.m. in 114 Classroom Building.
Instructor: Elaine Peterson  Office hours: M-F 10:00-11:00 am
Office: 101 D Classroom Building   ...and by appointment
Office Phone: 667-3327     
Home Phone: 529-3804 (Please, no calls after 9:00)    
Instructor: Diana Grant Office hours: M 3:30-5 and 
Office: 213 E Classroom Building   F 10:30-12:30 & 3:30-5 
Office Phone: 667-3030    ...and by appointment

Course Description: Examines crime and the allocation of criminal justice resources from an economic and criminal justice perspective including economic modeling of the supply of crime, the impact of crime, cost-benefit analysis fundamentals, and analysis of alternative public policies for crime prevention, deterrence, and punishment.

Course Objectives: Help students understand underlying economic and social structural forces that affect the levels and types of crime and the tradeoffs faced in deciding how to use criminal justice resources.

Major Texts:
Hellman, Daryl A. and Alper, Neil O., Economics of Crime: Theory and Practice, Simon and Schuster Custom Publishing, NY, 1992 (H&A)

Reiman, Jeffrey, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1998 (R)

Selected readings: Articles drawn from professional journals such as: Journal of Economic Issues, Journal of Economic Literature, International Review of Law and Economics, Rand Journal of Economics, The Criminal Justice Policy Review, Law and Society Review, and the American Criminologist

Readings from: Simon, David R., Elite Deviance, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1996 and Nader, Ralph and Smith, Wesley J., No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America, Random House, NY, 1996 (S)
Grading: Class participation and short assignments
  Short papers 
  Preliminary report on term paper or project topic
  Participation in class debate
  Term Paper or project (15%) & presentation (10%)
  Final Exam
We will use the plus/minus grading option in this class. Grade ranges will reflect the percentage of total possible points, as follows: 90-100% = A range; 80-89% = B range, 70-79% = C range, 60-69% = D range, 59% or less = F.

Class participation and short assignments: Regular attendance is expected. Reading should be done prior to class to enable participation. Students who must miss a class should contact the instructor in advance or as soon as possible and may need to make up work. Attendance will affect the class participation portion of the grade. Short assignments may be announced in class or via email. Any necessary changes to the schedule below will also be announced in class or via email. All students should check their email regularly and should join the email discussion list for this class. To join the discussion list visit the web page for the class ( Then follow the discussion list link and itís instructions for adding your email address to the list.

Short papers: The two short papers should use basic economic tools to analyze a current crime related or criminal justice related event or issue. Each paper should briefly summarize facts from a recent newspaper, magazine, journal, or internet article and then discuss the event or issue using economic tools. Students are free to choose any article they find interesting and for which they see relationships to crime, or criminal justice, and economics. The papers should be approximately 2-3 double spaced typed pages. A copy of the article should be submitted with the paper. Be careful to use your own words. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade. Students are welcome to bring articles to class for discussion or to submit preliminary drafts prior to the due date. Students may also discuss articles together and give each other helpful comments on their papers. If you receive substantial help from another student in the class you should cite them in your paper. In many fields professional recognition is given for frequent citation, similarly if your paper is good they will be given extra credit towards the class participation portion of their grade.

Participation in class debate: Many issues that we will discuss are controversial and can be viewed from multiple perspectives. Near the end of the semester the class will be asked to choose one of these topics for debate. A key viewpoint will be expressed as a statement and "pro" and "con" teams will be formed. Students should be willing to think about and prepare arguments on either side. Even if you disagree with a particular viewpoint you should be able to understand how it might be expressed and what the key arguments are for that viewpoint. We would also like to have approximately equal size teams. If at all possible, you should coordinate with your team regarding preparing arguments. Active participants in the debate will receive 5% credit toward their grade. A coin toss will be used to determine which side should begin. Each team member will have approximately 5 minutes to speak. After initial arguments by both sides time will also be allowed for rebuttals. If you are unable to participate the weight on the final exam will be increased to 25% grade.

Preliminary report on term paper or project topic: In many professions it is common to require the topic of a paper or proposed project be submitted before the paper is written or project undertaken. For example proposals must be submitted before funding is approved. Similarly in this class students are required to submit in writing a preliminary report on their paper or project topic. The report should include some of the sources that will be used. The topic must be approved by the instructors. In the interests of avoiding redundancy in student presentations, multiple students will not be allowed to cover overly similar topics. If more than one student chooses essentially the same topic the first to submit the preliminary report will be approved.

Term Paper or Project: Each student should choose a topic relating to crime to explore from both an economic and criminal justice perspective. Each student should meet individually with the professors to work on a research plan for exploring that topic. The topic must be approved by the instructors to receive credit. All sources should be cited. Be careful to use your own words. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade. Students are welcome to submit preliminary drafts. Students may also discuss their papers together and give each other helpful comments on their papers. If you receive substantial help from another student in the class you should cite them in your paper. In many fields professional recognition is given for frequent citation, similarly if your paper is good they will be given extra credit towards the class participation portion of their grade.

Presentation: One of the most common ways ideas are currently developed and disseminated is through discussion and presentation. In this class students are required to present their term paper or project work to their classmates. The presentation should briefly cover the motivation for the work, the essential information gathered, and the analysis or assessment of the information. Since time for presentations will be limited students are advised to plan their presentations carefully. Students should feel free to use any visual aids they feel will facilitate understanding of their presentation such as overheads or handouts. These can be particularly helpful if you are nervous. Grading of presentations will be based on organization, thoroughness, clarity, apparent thought on material as well as timing and handling of class comments and questions.

Exams: Students are encouraged to work together in studying, but not during exams. Cheating will result in a failing grade. Exams will involve essays. Essays should be well organized and thorough to indicate understanding and thought regarding the material covered. Examples of practice essay questions will be posted on the web page for this class
Economics of Crime ECON 4950/ CJ 4950Spring 2000 Schedule
Note: This is a new class and is subject to modification to meet studentsí needs, interests, and goals.
Feb 16 Introduction & Overview of Crime Data and Trends 
FBI Uniform Crime Report data, victim surveys, self-report surveys, surveys of public perceptions of crime, incarceration rates, comparison of white collar and street crimes 
H&A Ch. 1
R Ch. 1
Feb. 21 Impact of Crime 
Direct & indirect costs of crime, distribution of the costs of crime
H&A Ch. 2 
R Ch. 2
Feb. 28
Mar. 6
Modeling Criminal Behavior
Basic economic model of crime, modeling different types of crime, supply of different types of crime, comparing alternative explanations of crime (including microeconomic, macroeconomic, historical, and social ecological)
H&A Ch. 3
R Appendix
Ehrlich article
Mar. 13 Allocating Criminal Justice Resources
Prevention, deterrence, punishment and corrections; allocation of resources between offender-oriented and victim-oriented facets of the legal system
H&A Ch. 4
R Ch. 3
Mar. 20 Tools for analyzing alternatives
Basics of Cost-Benefit Analysis and some application examples; criminal justice policy analysis and program evaluation techniques
Friday Mar. 24 Midterm Exam
H&A Ch. 5
Mar. 27 Tools for analyzing alternatives (Continued)
Property crimes
R Ch. 4
H&A Ch. 6
April 3  Corporate and governmental crimes  H&A Ch. 6 (cont.)
S Ch. 4 & excerpts
April 10 "Street" Crimes  H&A Ch. 7
April 17 "Victimless" crimes H&A Ch. 8
April 24
Spring Break 
May 1 Student Presentations  
May 8 Drug related crimes; Organized crime; Class debate H&A Ch. 9, 10
May 15 International Comparisons
Comparing the US system of dealing with crime to that in other countries
May 22 Summary & Conclusions
Monday May 22 Last class Term Paper or Project Due
H&A Ch. 11
R Conclusion
FINAL EXAM WEDNESDAY MAY 24 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. C114 (Comprehensive)