Faculty and students who work in this area examine how individual behavior and social processes shape crime, law and social policy, and, in turn, how law and policy shape individual lives and social structures. In particular, they focus on how law perpetuates inequality and other social problems, as examined through the lenses of the labor market, environment, crime, and health, using quantitative, qualitative, comparative, and mixed-methods approaches.
Life course criminologists are primarily interested in stability and changes in one’s criminal offending from adolescence to adulthood. Researchers in this area examine what factors might affect criminal behavior in adolescence, such as families, neighborhoods, peers, and schools. Researchers also examine what transitions might lead to a redirection in one’s criminal trajectory in adulthood, such as transitioning into (and out of) marriage, employment, and higher education.
Faculty and students working in this area are primarily interested in how society reacts to crime with new and/or altered laws and practices, as well as the extent to which these reformed policies promote positive change. Particular interests include: the relationship between immigration and crime; counterterrorism; and coerced labor in correctional institutions.
Researchers working in this subfield focus on the extent to which involvement with the criminal justice system leads to social and economic consequences, such as poor educational and occupational attainments. Faculty and students also consider how the consequences associated with the incarceration of a parent can spill over into the lives of their children.
Substance use and misuse has been at the forefront of American Politics since the early 1970’s and remains so today. Researchers in this area are primarily interested in the causes and correlates of substance use, such as chronic pain and downward intergenerational social mobility. Faculty in this subfield are also interested in examining recovery from substance use addiction.
The law touches all areas of modern social life, including education, family, race relations, employment, entertainment, inequality, and other social issues. Thus, anyone who seeks to understand how our society functions must study how law is created and applied. Faculty and students in this area explore law as a social institution, analyzing how some of its central features (lawyers, disputes, rules, etc.) are related to wider historical and social characteristics.
Scholars in this field analyze the consequences of social policy at a variety of levels—individuals, families, neighborhoods, cities, and countries. Researchers in this area are also interested in policy solutions to key social problems, such as environmental inequality, coerced/low-wage labor, household divisions of labor, and health, happiness, and well-being.