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*Comparative Criminal and Juvenile Justice

San Jose, Costa Rica

IntroductionAcademicsLocation Faculty program director CostsDatesApplication



The MU International Center sponsors this winter break, faculty-led program in collaboration with School of Social Work. MU professor Clark Peters will lead this three-credit program in San José, Costa Rica.

This program explores issues of criminal and juvenile justice through a brief survey of the U.S. approach to dealing with offenders and a two-week visit to San José, Costa Rica, to visit correctional institutions, meet with justice officials and criminologists, and explore agencies engaged in community-based efforts to address crime and delinquency. This course provides an overview of the justice process and the criminal justice system and provides an opportunity to consider different approaches to dealing with offending and rehabilitation.

After this program, you will be able to:

  • Understand criminal and juvenile justice approaches in correctional facilities, health agencies and communities.
  • Understand Costa Rica's criminal justice system including reintegration of offenders and nationwide restorative justice processes. 



You will be enrolled in one MU course for a total of three credits.

SOC WK 4101/7001 (3) — The goals and objectives of this course are to educate you around criminal justice issues and enhance your critical thinking with regards to the way that societies address criminal behavior.

Academic credit

You will be enrolled in actual MU courses. You are guaranteed to receive MU credit for successfully completed courses; however, you must work with your academic adviser(s) to obtain pre-approval as to how courses might fulfill degree requirements.

MU students: Grades will calculate into your MU GPA and appear on your MU transcript when grades are recorded by the faculty program director. You must work with your academic adviser(s) to obtain pre-approval as to how the courses might fulfill degree requirements.

Non-MU/visiting students: Transcripts will be issued from MU and can be mailed to your home university. You must work with your home university to determine how credit from the program will transfer. The MU International Center will issue one transcript per student to one domestic address, as indicated on your Non-MU Student Application for Study Abroad. Additional MU transcripts for study abroad must be requested and purchased from the MU Registrar.


Host cities and surrounding areas

San José, Costa Rica's capital city, is located in the center of the country at approximately 3,700 feet above sea level, with 1.3 million inhabitants.

Costa Rica is a country famous for its eco-diversity. More than 25 percent of the country has been preserved as national parks and nature preserves. Along with mountainous cloud forests and lowland pineapple and banana plantations Costa Rica has numerous beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Costa Rica is a pacifist country with no army and enjoys a great deal of stability in comparison to other Central American countries.

Costa Rica's criminal and juvenile justice systems operate under French civil law which is different than the U.S.’s English common law. In Costa Rica, a judge or panel of judges, rather than a jury, decides on whether a person is guilty of a charge, if someone should be granted bail, and what sentence they should serve given the crime. Crimes are punished by fines or incarceration. Similar to the U.S. Costa Rica’s incarcerated population has increased over the years with today’s incarceration rate at approximately 374 per 100,000. They face issues surrounding prison overcrowding and urgent needs for reform. In 2012, Costa Rica established a national restorative justice process for both juveniles and adults. In 2014, officials began reforming national drug laws, prison rehabilitation, and vocational training. Similar to the U.S., substance use treatment and mental health services are provided in the community by psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and other mental health professionals. However, Costa Rica has universal healthcare which includes coverage for psychiatric services. For additional information about Costa Rican law, see here.


You will travel with the group, but will have opportunities to explore some sites independently during your time abroad.

  • Tortuguero National Park 
  • Doka Coffee Plantation
  • Poás Volcano
  • La Paz Waterfall

Tentative itinerary

  • Jan. 1: Arrive in San José
  • Jan. 2: Orientation and cultural activity
  • Jan. 3-5: Tortuguero National Park excursion
  • Jan. 6-10: Program site visits
  • Jan. 11: Excursions to Doka Coffee Plantation, Poás Volcano and La Paz Waterfall
  • Jan. 12: Cultural activity
  • Jan. 13: Program site visits
  • Jan. 14: Program ends; departure

Faculty program director

MU faculty members Clark Peters, associate professor of social work, will accompany the students to Costa Rica.

Faculty-led programs enrich the study abroad experience as well as the MU campus by providing students with opportunities to study other cultures and disciplines in depth while gaining new perspectives on our own society. Faculty leaders serve as mentors, role-models and resources as students explore their host institution and country.

Clark Peters

Clark Peters

Dr. Peters' work focuses on helping vulnerable young people — especially individuals experiencing state care — successfully transfer to adulthood. He also examines child welfare services and judicial oversight of dependency and delinquency cases. Peters works closely with the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. He recently examined asset building for young adults aging out of foster care and is currently working on a project to assess enhancements to JCYOI's asset-building activities. Peters has also examined and presented on increasing the level of "normalcy" of young people in state care, including providing access to drivers' licenses, dental care and financial education.

A dedicated teacher, Peters teaches courses that address policy, social justice and law. He also recently developed a writing seminar that challenges undergraduate students to deepen their understanding of a specific disadvantaged population — such as homeless youths, veterans, individuals with disabilities or victims of domestic violence — through examining their experiences in professional literature and through the personal stories provided to the class.


Program budget

Additional expenses

In addition to the program costs paid to MU, you will have expenses associated with international travel and living abroad. The amounts listed are estimated costs based on current exchange rates and on the information provided to us by your host institution and past participants. Depending on your personal spending habits, you may spend more or less than the figures provided.

Please note that these expenses do not include vacation travel or sightseeing.

Financial aid information

If you are awarded financial aid for study abroad, it will be applied to your MU account according to the regular financial aid disbursement schedule. Reminder: You must be enrolled in study abroad and have completed the required financial aid forms for study abroad in order to be considered for aid.

Because non-resident tuition charges apply, MU students should be eligible to use non-resident scholarships toward program costs.

Dates and deadlines

Term Application deadline Program start Program end
Winter Break 2019 10/04/2019 01/01/2020 01/14/2020


We are delighted that you are applying to study abroad. This is the first step of your journey, and while there is a lot to do, it should not be overwhelming. Once you start an application for the program, you will have an electronic checklist to help you through the process. In addition, our study abroad staff are available to answer your questions.

  1. Meet with the International Center study abroad adviser listed in the program snapshot if you have any questions.
  2. Start an application using the button below if you are an MU student.
    • Non-MU students should visit our page for non-MU participants for more information about the application process.
    • Once you have started an application, you can return to it later by logging in to myStudyAbroad (see the button at the top of the page).
  3. Complete and submit your application.

This program is not currently accepting applications.