Department Overview

The department is consistently ranked among the best in the nation:

#2 - Best U.S. Colleges for a Major in Criminology (USA Today)

#1- Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (2020 US News and World Report)

#3- Doctoral Degree-Granting Programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice (US News and World Report)

#5 - Scholarly Productivity (2009 Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index - Most Recent evaluation)

UCI’s distinctive, interdisciplinary Department of Criminology, Law and Society (CLS) integrates two complementary areas of scholarship — criminology and law and society (sometimes called socio-legal studies). It is the only criminology department, and one of only two law and society units, in the University of California system. Among our distinguished faculty are three former presidents of the American Society of Criminology, former presidents of the Law and Society Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the American Psychology-Law Society, and two Fellows of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. The department is currently ranked 3rd (US News and World Reports Chronicle of Higher Education) in the nation among doctoral degree-granting programs in criminology and criminal justice, and 5th in scholarly productivity (2009 Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index - Most recent evaluation).

The Department of Criminology, Law and Society conducts research and teaching activities that focus on the causes, manifestations, and consequences of criminal behavior, methods of controlling criminal behavior, and the relationships and interactions between law, social structure and cultural practices. Courses include overviews of American legal systems, forms of criminal behavior, legal and criminal theory, social science and the law, victimology, and regulatory issues, in addition to substantive areas of law such as family, criminal, environmental, immigration, procedural, and constitutional.

CLS has a distinctive history. The department began as an emphasis within the program of Social Ecology, which was founded in 1970 by Professor Arnold Binder, a key figure in both CLS and the field of criminology. The purpose of the School of Social Ecology was and is "to train undergraduate and graduate students to analyze research and policy questions from a broad, ecological perspective that integrates multiple disciplines and links basic theory and research with community problem-solving." Criminology, Law and Society became a formal department with both an undergraduate major and Ph.D. program in 1991. Since then, CLS faculty have trained numerous undergraduate and graduate students over almost three decades. Graduates work in both the public and private sectors and at colleges and universities around the country. The CLS curriculum offers a broad array of topics for both undergraduate and graduate study that are central to crime and its control, social policy, and the law. In keeping with the main tenet of Social Ecology, faculty and students approach these subjects from a multidisciplinary perspective.

We offer a highly selective Ph.D. program designed to train the next generation of scholars in criminology and social-legal studies. We offer an emphasis in Race and Justice Studies that any graduate student can take to complement their current Ph.D. program and make them more competitive in their chosen field. We also provide two innovative primarily online masters programs designed to further the education of working professionals in law and criminal justice, and we offer a distinctive undergraduate major in Criminology, Law and Society.

CLS promotes inclusive excellence in teaching, research and professional service at the undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and junior faculty stages of an academic career in criminology, and law and society. We  recruit undergraduates from California State Universities to present in our annual Social Justice Undergraduate Research Symposium, provide mentorship and specialization in Race and Justice Studies for graduate students, fund the CLS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, recruit faculty through the UC Office of the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program and the UCI Office of Academic Personnel Hiring Programs, and support tenure for our junior faculty with the Diversity and Justice Speaker Series

Department Strengths

The department faculty have particularly strong expertise in a number of sub-areas. Among these are research in psychology and law, race and justice, law and society, spatial patterns of crime, incarceration and re-entry processes, gangs and crime, social networks and crime, and public policy and crime. 

Scholars working in the area of psychology and law include Cole, Loftus, Lynch and Scurich. This work is centered on the Center for Psychology and Law. The Department also collaborates on a new national Forensic Science Center of Excellence. This Center is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

Scholars working in the area of race and justice include Coutin, Currie, Han, Jenness, Kubrin, Muniz and Sugie. Much of this work is centered around the Center in Law, Society and Culture (CLSC). The Department also offers a newly instituted Race and Justice Studies Emphasis for students.

Scholars working in the area of law & society include Berk, Cole, Coutin, Golob, Han, Jenness, Lynch, Reiter and Seeds. UCI has a world-class School of Law, and our Department is closely integrated with this School. The Socio-Legal Workshop series meets regularly throughout the school year and includes participants from both Schools and often invites external speakers to present. Students can also apply to be admitted to the joint J.D./Ph.D. Program.

Scholars working in the area of spatial patterns of crime include Hipp, Kubrin and Tita. The Irvine Lab for the Study of Space and Crime (ILSSC) does extensive work in this area. The Metropolitan Futures Initiative (MFI) is housed in the School of Social Ecology and carries out similar work. 

Scholars working in the area of incarceration and/or re-entry processes include Reiter, Rodriguez, Seeds, Sugie, Sykes and Turner. The Center for Evidence-Based Corrections (CEBC) conducts much research in this area throughout the state of California. 

Scholars working in the area of gangs and crime include Muniz and Tita.

Scholars working in the area of social networks and crime include Hipp and Tita. UC Irvine has long been a powerhouse in social networks research. Faculty are affiliated with the Center for Networks & Relational Analysis. The CNRA hosts a social network research brownbag series that meets weekly during the school year.

Scholars working in the area of public policy and crime include Gottfredson, Owens, Rodriguez and Tita. There is also a Master in Public Policy degree available.