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 (2024 US News and World Report)

#2- Doctoral Degree-Granting Programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice (2024 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 & society (sometimes called socio-legal studies). It is the only criminology department, and one of only two law & society units, in the University of California system. Among our distinguished faculty are former presidents of the American Society of Criminology,  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 tied for 2nd (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 social control, and the relationships and interactions between law, social structure and cultural practices. Courses include overviews of American legal systems, criminological and socio-legal theory, social science and the law, punishment theory and processes, inequalities and injustice, 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. The mission of the Ph.D. program is as follows:

The Department of Criminology, Law & Society (CLS) at the University of California-Irvine is committed to preparing the next generation of scholars, regardless of social background and planned career pursuits in academia and beyond. We accomplish this commitment by providing rigorous training in mainstream and emerging theoretical perspectives, diverse methodological approaches, and contemporary and historical social problems. By taking an interdisciplinary, evidence-based approach to social science research, CLS Ph.D. students are prepared to engage with criminological and socio-legal topics in a variety of academic fields, enabling them to pursue meaningful, constructive, and transformative scholarship and teaching.

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  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 race and justice; inequalities and the legal system; immigration policies and their impacts; global and comparative socio-legal studies; punishment and society; socio-legal theory; incarceration and re-entry processes; miscarriages of justice; psychology and law; violence and responses to violence; spatial patterns of crime and social control; social networks and crime; and public policy, criminal justice and crime. Individual faculty profiles may be viewed here.

The Department also participates in a number of innovative research and pedagogical activies.

The department collaborates on the national Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence funded by the National Institute of Standards & Technology. It also co-sponsors the National Registry of Exonerations, which provides research opportunities for students and faculty.

The department collaborates with the Law School on the Center in Law, Society and Culture (CLSC), which offers a Friday brown-bag Socio-Legal Workshop series and which helps coordinate the interdisciplinary graduate emphasis in Law, Society & Culture.  The Department also offers a Race and Justice Studies Emphasis for graduate students.

The department houses the Irvine Lab for the Study of Space and Crime (ILSSC) and The UCI Law and Ethnography Lab and is integrally involved in the Metropolitan Futures Initiative (MFI) and the new Livable Cities Lab - both of which are housed in the School of Social Ecology. 

The department is also home to the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections (CEBC) which conducts extensive policy-related research on corretions and criminal justice throughout the state of California.