'This book traverses an impressive array of topics and problems central to law and criminal justice. Its accessibility, contemporary themes and sensitivity to issues of inequality make it a perfect text for students and teachers of sociology, law, criminology, legal studies and other related areas. It is rare to find a book that takes the sociological imagination so successfully into fields that are often viewed as the domain for legal professionals only. The well-chosen examples also make it a valuable resource for scholars with experiences of different justice systems' - Sharyn L Roach Anleu, Flinders University. `Smith and Natalier have produced an accessible, wide-ranging and lucid text which sets the major questions of criminal justice within the broad framework of classical and contemporary sociological theory. It represents a significant step forward among teaching texts in the field, synthesising some difficult material without over-simplifying it, and providing a broad-overview without losing sight of the texture of discreet issues - Professor Nicola Lacey, London School of Economics. Is there really an intrinsic link between the law and our criminal justice system? What exactly is it and can an understanding of wider sociological issues tell us anything about this relationship? Understanding Criminal Justice addresses the fundamental relationship between law and the criminal justice system, and the ways in which both are intimately connected with wider social forces. The book provides an essential introduction coverering classic themes, debates and literatures to ground the student before moving on to contemporary themes such as globalisation, internet regulation and the media. The subject matter is contextualised within the wider social framework by calling into play the historical, political, community and cultural inputs that impact upon concrete policies and practice. The authors integrate theory with data and examples from the UK, USA and Australia. Through the inclusion of the following pedagogical devices, the student is encouraged to more fully and independently develop their understanding of key questions and issues:

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