Public Scholarship

Diversifying the Study of Crime and Justice - The Criminologist

Key Observations

  • Academic institutions lack a diverse faculty pool, specifically Black faculty members within the field of criminal justice and criminology graduate programs.
  • We found that sixty-eight percent of colleges and universities have one or no Black full-time, tenured/tenure-track faculty-members in their department.
  • We must recognize and acknowledge how academic institutions maintain and reproduce systemic inequality.


Recent killings of unarmed Black persons have led to unprecedented support for structural reforms in the criminal legal system and academia. These changes would involve a massive realignment of the criminal justice system. For their part, academic institutions have responded by issuing public statements and countless online discussions to talk through many of these issues. Despite their efforts, universities have failed to address the lack of diversity among their faculty. More directly, the lack of Black faculty within Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJ) graduate programs is extremely problematic considering the current state of affairs between Black Americans and the criminal legal system. In a field of study where racial/ethnic, class, and gender discrimination is rampant – and the racial disproportionality in the use of excessive force by law enforcement, sentencing, and incarceration rates is beyond problematic – we no longer have the liberty of ‘waiting for change.’ Our call to action and immediate steps towards change must be swift.

For well over 30 years, criminologists have highlighted the limited presence of Black professors in the discipline. To get an idea of the degree and extent to which Black criminologists exist, we examined forty-one Criminology and Criminal Justice graduate programs in the U.S. We found that despite increased calls for diversity, not much has changed. This article will highlight the results of that study and provide some actionable recommendations for change.

In addition to investigating the status of Black faculty in CCJ graduate programs, this study aimed to provide recommendations with the hope of creating actionable change with CJ academia. Along this line, the following discussion will provide recommendations and points of consideration for our discipline as we strive for more Black representation in our faculty and scholarship, as well as our field of study.

Recommendation # 1: Recognize and acknowledge how our institutions and CCJ departments maintain and reproduce systemic inequality and inequity.
Recommendation #2: Actively recruit and hire Black faculty now, and do so without limiting the value of their scholarship.
Recommendation #3: Make room for Black faculty and their voices at the table, and earnestly listen to them.
Recommendation #4: Desegregate Research Groups. Despite the recent push to diversify the academy, the internal policy and cultural frameworks work to undermine these recent efforts and maintain the status quo.

Click HERE to read the full article in The Criminologist of The American Society of Criminology.