The study of ‘policy transfer’ has been subject to sustained criticism, in particular by critical policy studies scholars. This critique - together with the rather marginal role that policy transfer research has played in criminological debates to date - raises questions about the continued utility of such research in scholarly discussions of crime control and penal policy-making. However, we ... [Show full abstract] argue here that such studies can enhance our understanding of the local, national and global influences over crime control policy formation. In particular, the developing interest in comparative criminology, in the political economy of punishment, and in the ‘proximate causes’ of penal change, are all areas to which this work can make a useful contribution. Although we feel that some elements of the critique are over-stated, the critical policy studies notions of ‘mobilities’ and ‘assemblages’ offer important advances that capture more fully the complexities of the processes involved in the cross-national movement of penal policy.