Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Justice

Our Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Justice (LCJ) program takes a sociological approach to questions around the law and legal processes, crime and its causes and consequences, and systems of punishment. Our courses critically examine the inner workings of institutions like courts, prisons, and human rights commissions, working to understand how power and inequality shape definitions and operations of law, legality, crime, and justice. Our program emphasizes using social science research methods, including interviews, statistical analysis, survey research, ethnography, and historical and comparative analysis, to better understand these systems of social control.

In 2021, we changed the name of this major from “Law, Criminology and Deviance” to “Law, Criminology, and Justice.” This change helps convey our department’s focus on systems of law and punishment (including policing, courts, jails and prisons, and community supervision) as well as our support for justice and human rights in our scholarship, teaching, and public engagement.


Meet with our advisor and learn more about the major.

Understanding Social Processes

Sociological investigations of law, criminology, and justice help develop new theories, methods, and empirical findings. Through this program, you will learn about a range of topics, including:

  • components, dynamics, and philosophical structures of systems of law and justice
  • enforcement and impact of law on social change and the rights of individuals
  • the causes, consequences, and social construction of crime and criminal offenses
  • theories and structures of policing, punishment, and other institutions of justice
  • systematic evaluation of policy efforts to prevent or control crime
  • differences across race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, socio-economic class, and citizenship status in experiences of legal systems
  • media representations or distortions about crime and punishment
  • collective efforts to reimagine and promote justice within and beyond the United States

Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science

The Law, Criminology, and Justice program within Sociology is more tightly focused than the generalist Sociology program, and, as a result, offers a concentration of courses in this area of specialization. Learn more about the bachelor of arts in sociology of law, criminology, and justice or the bachelor of science in sociology of law, criminology, and justice.