Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Criminal justice is administered within a legal system comprised of institutions with particular roles and purposes. Having a knowledge and understanding of these institutions, roles and purposes, and the system as a whole, is needed to be effective in employment contexts involving any aspect of criminal justice.

This unit begins by helping students to identify and describe the key institutions and policies in the criminal justice system. Students will then develop their understanding of these institutions and policies, with a particular emphasis on the ways they help to support human dignity, recognise and accommodate diversity, and promote the common good. As students progress, this unit will help them develop a broader understanding of the criminal justice system as a whole, rather than only the component parts. This is reflected in an understanding of emerging philosophies and trends within the criminal justice system, the efficacy of particular component parts as well as their co-dependencies on other parts.

The aim of the unit is to develop students' knowledge and understanding of the institutions, roles and policies of the criminal justice system. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify and describe key institutions and policies in the criminal justice system (GA5)

LO2 - Explain the different roles of different institutions and policies of the criminal justice system, having regard to the dignity of the individual, human diversity, the common good and the need for a sustainable environment (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Evaluate emerging philosophies, policies and trends in the criminal justice system (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • The role of the legislature in developing criminal justice policy.
  • The role of the courts in developing criminal justice policy
  • Law reform commissions and royal commissions.
  • Police policy development.
  • Prosecutions policy discretion and development.
  • Corrections policy development.
  • Justice, health and disability (including the role of the NDIS).
  • Punishment, deterrence and retribution.
  • The role and operation of corrections and community corrections.
  • The reintegration puzzle.
  • Policies that reduce re-offending.
  • Leading good lives.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit comprises 150 hours of study in total. It will be taught over a 12 week semester, with one 2-hour lecture followed by a 1-hour tutorial each week or ACU Online 10 week asynchronous delivery mode. Other study components might include on-line webinars, podcasts, readings, discussion forums etc. The balance of the hours is comprised of self-directed study.

This unit begins by introducing students to the key institutions and roles of the criminal justice system. This is the basic knowledge of the system they need. It then helps students to develop their understanding of these institutions and their policies. When doing this, particular emphasis will be placed on examining the ways they help to support human dignity, recognise and accommodate diversity, promote the common good, and the need for a sustainable environment. In the later parts of the unit, the different institutions and roles of the criminal justice system are viewed more as a system of complimentary parts, operating through the application of different philosophies. As a consequence, students will develop their understanding of trends in the criminal justice system, and emerging philosophies.

Each of these topics is developed further in other units through the course.

ACU Online 

This unit uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of knowledge essential to the discipline. Students are provided with choice and variety in how they learn. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning in situations similar to their future professions. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit has three assessment tasks that are designed to scaffold learning, as well as to determine learning outcomes.

The first assessment task will cover basic knowledge about the different police services in Australia. This aligns with the first learning outcome. A multiple-choice quiz (or similar) for example.

The second piece of assessment will be the production of a “case note”. This kind of task involves evaluation of the performance of a State corrective services department through analysis of case studies.

The third assessment task will be a report, or similar. It involves students explaining the ways in which the criminal justice system as a whole works in ways that aim to reintegrate offenders and reduce recidivism. When doing this kind of assignment students would include consideration of the different and emerging philosophies operating within the system. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Multiple choice quiz: Requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of key terms and their meaning, and fundamental practices of institutions in the criminal justice system.




Case note: Requires students to demonstrate critical thinking skills.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Report: Explain policies and practices that aim to reintegrate offenders and reduce recidivism.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Hayes and Prenzler, eds., An Introduction to Crime and Criminology, 5th edition, 2021.

Dalton, De Lint and Palmer, eds., Crime and Justice: A Guide to Criminology, 6th edition, 2020

Waldron R et al, The Criminal Justice System: An Introduction, 5th edition, 2009.

Findlay M, Odgers S & Yeo S, Australian Criminal Justice, 5th edition, 2014.

Dammer H & Albanese J, Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, 5th edition, 2013.

White R & Habibis D, Crime & Society, 2005.

White R & Perrone S, Crime and Social Control, 2nd edition, 2010.

Hughes G, The Politics of Crime & Community, 2006.

Vines P, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, 3rd edition, 2013.

Welsh W & Harris P, Criminal Justice Policy and Planning: Planned Change, 5th edition, 2016. 

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