Constructing a Framework for Criminal Justice Research: Learning from Packer's Mistakes

78 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2005


This article examines the framework which Herbert Packer devised for analysing the criminal justice process. Warning against an indiscriminate use of the word "model" - something which Packer introduced, which critics of his work have perpetuated, and which today is commonplace in criminal justice research - it distinguishes three distinct tools which researchers might employ - strong ideal-types, weak ideal-types and non-ideal-types - and underscores the importance of drawing a sharp distinction between empirical work and evaluative work. Exposing other fundamental flaws in Packer's framework, the article also abstracts two other general lessons for criminal justice research: that a multi-dimensional framework is needed, and so a one-dimensional framework like Packer's is inappropriate; and that to adopt a simple yes/no approach to the different ways in which values are held, as Packer did, is inadequate. So as well as constructing a number of tools which may be used by criminal justice researchers, and offering examples of how they might be employed, the article establishes the general contours of a framework for criminal justice research.

Keywords: packer, due process model, crime control model, analysing criminal justice policy

JEL Classification: K14, K1

Suggested Citation

MacDonald, Stuart K., Constructing a Framework for Criminal Justice Research: Learning from Packer's Mistakes. Buffalo Criminal Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Stuart K. MacDonald (Contact Author)

Swansea University College of Law ( email )

Richard Price Building
Singleton Park
Swansea, SA2 8PP
United Kingdom


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