Department of Criminology


The “father” of American criminology, Edwin Sutherland, once defined criminology as the study of the making, breaking, and enforcing of laws. Criminologists examine the historical making of laws—from the criminal law, to regulatory law, to international law—and the impact of these laws locally, regionally, and globally. Criminologists also research why people break or violate these laws; that is, why certain individuals engage in street crime (criminal law), white-collar crimes (regulatory law), and political crimes (international law). Finally, criminologists assess the enforcement of each of these laws, such as the differing organizations associated with violations of the criminal law (police, courts, and prisons) and the regulatory agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, among others) that enforce violations of regulatory law. The Criminology Department at USM then is unique in the sense that students receive a comprehensive understanding of the making, breaking, and enforcing of the above laws. This is very different from, for example, Criminal Justice Programs that simply concentrate on the latter category—the organizations that comprise the criminal justice system.

The Criminology Department offers a four-year program leading to a bachelor of arts degree in criminology. The program provides students with a liberal arts education whose focus is the complex relations among crime, law, and society, and which emphasizes the social sciences. The curriculum is a rigorous series of courses which provides students with a comprehensive knowledge of crime and crime control in contemporary, historical, and comparative perspective. The core of the curriculum is an integrated set of required courses. These courses are designed as a cumulative set of experiences and should be taken in sequence. Elective courses enable students to place their criminological interests in a broader perspective. Many students in the program are interested in social and human service occupations related to criminal, juvenile, and social justice. The program also prepares students for a wide variety of other career options and provides as excellent basis for graduate study in criminology, other social sciences, and law.


The Criminology Department is well known for its critical perspectives and published research on criminological theory, gender, multi-cultural, and comparative analyses. The faculty have won regional, national, and international awards for scholarship, teaching innovations, and community service. In addition, all faculty members have had significant professional training and experience outside the United States, in Canada, Australia, Britain, Sweden and the former Yugoslavia.

While some students enroll in the major expecting to learn law enforcement skills and strategies, psychological profiling, forensic investigation, and approaches to prosecution, this is not what we teach. Our courses routinely examine social structural foundations of crime, deviance, and social harm, including the social control institutions, as well as the power dynamics involved in defining crime, prosecuting crime, and official sanctions for deviance and those "at risk". We systematically explore the dynamics of racism, sexism, and class inequality as they impact perceived realities of "crime". The faculty do not accept depictions of "crime" at face value. Maybe there are "normal" activities which might be regarded as "crimes"? Conversely, maybe there are "crimes" which might not be regarded as such? We explore the concept and its use within the broader discipline of criminology through our research, teaching, and community service.