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What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice is an interdisciplinary field of study that seeks to understand and improve the criminal justice system in three main areas: policing, courts, and corrections.  Criminal Justice programs at four-year institutions typically include coursework in statistics, research methods, policing, U.S. court systems, criminal courts, corrections, community corrections, criminal procedure, criminal law, victimology, juvenile justice, and related special topics.

Criminal Justice is a relatively new field. It started in the 1950s and saw significant growth during the 1980s and 1990s.  Early on, the research relied on qualitative studies of specific criminal justice agencies and offered assessments of specific criminal justice policies’ effectiveness in crime reduction. More recently, quantitative methods and comparative studies have been used to aid qualitative inquiries, which has expanded the field’s scope.

Criminal Justice is different from Criminology in many ways, with the most distinct difference being that Criminology relies more on social scientific understandings of crime and deviance. At the same time, Criminal Justice focuses on the efficacy of the criminal justice system.  Criminal Justice also offers critical assessments of the justice system by exploring the social, economic, cultural, and historical inequalities produced and reinforced as part of a society’s pursuit of “justice.” Finally, Criminal Justice is also different from Criminology because it focuses on applied research intended to change how the justice system works and for whom.  It also makes human agency central.  Specifically, Criminal Justice students learn about institutions, crime, law, and human behavior to play an active role in changing it for the better.

Our B.A. in Criminal Justice can help get you a career in the criminal justice field. Apply today!