Transfer of Policies and Practices to Other Countries




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Book chapter

Peer reviewed



There is a long history of the international exchange of ideas, research findings, policies and practices in criminal justice. In recent years, there has been a marked increase in more deliberate and strategic activity to ‘learn lessons’ from the achievements (and sometimes the failures) of other nations and to ‘import’ policies and practices. This has become known as policy transfer, which has been defined as ‘the process by which knowledge of ideas, institutions, policies and programmes in one setting is fed into the policy-making arena in the development and change of policies and programmes in another setting’ (Dolowitz et al. 2000: 9). Transfer can take different forms, including copying, emulation or inspiration. A nexus of factors – economic, political, social, cultural and organisational - will influence the character and outcome of transfer attempts and the complexity of these interactions makes the consequences of transfer inherently unpredictable. Different people may have different and changing motivations to transfer and, since neither the intended nor the actual consequences are always easy to identify, evaluation is far from straightforward. Consideration of policy transfer foregrounds the importance of agency and choice in penal policy, redressing theoretical tendencies to explain penal development solely in structural terms. Experiences of policy transfer often expose taken-for-granted features of criminal justice systems and illuminate influences that shape their character and development.


This is a book-chapter-length contribution to a prestigious and authoritative international encyclopaedia.


Policy transfer, criminal justice, probation


Canton, R. (2014) Transfer of Policies and Practices to Other Countries. In: Bruinsma, Gerben, and David Weisburd, (eds.) Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Springer, pp. 2623 – 2632


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice