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Crime and Justice in Southern Italy


Sorrento, Italy

Program Description

Comparative studies of crime are increasingly considered crucial in the education and training of criminologists. By placing this program in Southern Italy, we will create an intensive experience where students will have direct access to the culture and traditions of organized crime, of the Italian heroes who have battled this type of offending, and of the justice system which has pursued and prosecuted these types of crime. In the Organized Crime class, students will learn about the tradition and culture of Italian organized crime groups and come to understand the Mafia resistance movement which has arisen in Italy in the last 30-40 years. Being able to visit many of the sites where significant events in the history of Italian organized crime and the fight against it took place is an invaluable tool in understanding the impact of this type of offending on the Italian people and state. Having conversations with people who have been on the front lines of the fight against organized crime in Italy will give students a close look at an incredible social movement, unlike anything present in the United States.

The scholarly literature notes the connection of the land and culture of the region in the way that these organized crime groups developed, and being able to experience this area first hand will assuredly assist students in understanding the phenomenon in Italy, and the ways that this model of offending spread to the USA and elsewhere. The advantages of being on site in doing a course in Comparative Criminal Justice studies are similar. Most European countries have criminal justice systems similar to that in the USA, but with some interesting and significant differences. Students will have the opportunity to learn not only about the nature of the criminal justice system in Italy, but also to investigate the ways in which place affects the nature of the crime problem itself, and the way that responses to this crime are structured. Conversations with those who work in the Italian criminal justice system (law enforcement officers, magistrates, and the like) will help students in understanding the realities of crime in this setting.

Location Description

We will be traveling in several areas in the Southern parts of Italy. The trip will begin in Rome and from there we will proceed to the region of Campania, spending time in Naples and on the beautiful Amalfi Coast. We will conclude the trip on the island of Sicily, based in Palermo, with day trips in the surrounding areas to places such as Corleone, Cefalu, and Portella della Ginestra.


Peggy Plass | | Justice Studies


Accommodations will be provided through hotels, with several lunches or dinner available per week.

Additional Items to Consider

This program is targeted towards sophomore through junior Justice Studies, International Affairs, and Sociology majors or Criminal Justice minors.

Application Process

For this program, students are required to submit the following material(s):

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0.

For more detailed instructions and to download the application, please click on the following link to the Applications and Forms section for JMU Short-Term Programs.

Official transcript required for first-semester transfer students and non-JMU students.

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


JUST 301: Special Topics: Comparative Criminal Justice in Italy (3 credits)

JUST 320: Organized Crime in Italy and the United States (3 credits)