South Africa • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

New [And Improved] Title Spotlight: World Criminal Justice Systems: A Comparative Survey (9th ed.)

This time around, rather than looking at a brand new publication, I have decided to focus on the new edition of a treatise that was first published in 1984:

World Criminal Justice Systems: A Comparative Survey
Richard J. Terrill
9th edition, 2016
Law Library Reference Reading Room (Langdell 4th Floor), REF HV 7419 .T47 2016

This is not strictly a legal treatise, although much of its content will be of interest to comparative criminal law researchers. Instead, it focuses on the field of study of “criminal justice,” which according to the author encompasses several academic disciplines, including “[s]ociology, psychology, law, and public administration[.]” (Introduction, at 1)

The author makes it clear that this work facilitates the reader’s comparative analysis of the jurisdictions and legal systems surveyed, rather than providing its own. The book is targeted toward researchers with knowledge of the American criminal justice system; accordingly, the United States is not one of the featured jurisdictions. However, even non-U.S. researchers will likely find its clear, informative contents to be very valuable for introductory purposes.

For each of the jurisdictions covered (England, France, Japan, South Africa, Russia, and China), the author provides an informative overview of the government, the police, the judiciary, the law, the correctional system, and juvenile justice.  In addition, a chapter on Islamic Law was first added to the 8th edition in 2013. In this new edition, this chapter discusses the historical development of Islam and Sharia, and illustrates criminal justice principles in Islamic law countries using three “contemporary case studies” (Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey).

As the author explains in the introduction (pp. 7-9), when considering which jurisdictions to include, he focused on the evolution of their legal systems. In particular, he references “legal families”: while England represents common law; the “Romano-Germanic” tradition is represented by France as an original jurisdiction, as well as “borrowers” to varying degrees: Japan, South Africa, and the Russian Federation. The latter is also an example of a jurisdiction in the “socialist law” family, together with China. Finally, in adding the Islamic Law content, the author’s intention was not only to provide a view into criminal justice in “theocratic” societies, but also to focus on “countries [that] view the purpose and function of law in a different context from that which emerged in the West.”

In addition to its substantive content, the real value of this book to the researcher is its extensive bibliography of English-language sources, including books and scholarly articles, for each jurisdiction/legal system it covers.  Altogether, it is an excellent introductory source for legal researchers who are interested in researching any aspect of the criminal justice system in a comparative context.

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