Criminal science majors can specialize in a number of fields, including crime scene investigation, forensics, terrorism investigation, public policy, behavior analysis, and several others. Since this field of study is necessary to federal and local law enforcement agencies, criminal science majors can access a wealth of free information on government websites.
Student and Professional Criminal Justice Organizations
There are many honors societies and professional associations for the criminal sciences, since there are several field specializations. The following list is a sampling of organizations that cater to the general field of criminal sciences. Several of these organizations provide scholarships, continuing education, and networking opportunities for students and professionals in this field.
- Alpha Phi Sigma - This national honors society was founded in 1941 by Dr. Vivian Leonard at Washington State University. APS is dedicated to promoting the advancement of scientific research within the field of criminal justice, in both the academic and professional spheres. Students can explore the APS website for annual undergraduate and graduate scholarship opportunities, and to view profiles on winners from previous years. You can also catch up on current honors society news by checking out their official newsletter, “The Docket.”
- Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences - The ACJS was founded in 1963 as a community for professionals, faculty, and students to network and advance criminal justice research. This organization offers 11 types of membership sections, depending on the applicant’s interest in police work, corrections, community college education, and victimology. These specialty sections help members build closer networking communities, since the ACJS is made up of over 2,800 members.
- National Criminal Justice Association - The NCJA was established in 1971 in Washington D.C., serving as a channel of communication between policy makers and criminal justice professionals. This organization advocates for the improvement of criminal justice policy by engaging with government officials across the United States, on the federal, state, city, and tribal levels. NCJA services include federal grant writing, policy analysis, workshop design, and grant management training. Students and professionals can get involved with current national legislation by attending the annual National Forum on Criminal Justice.
- National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice - This non-profit was established in 1974, dedicating its efforts to equal treatment of blacks and other minority groups within the criminal justice system. The NABCJ offers several training opportunities for students and professionals in the criminal justice fields, including annual conference workshops on subjects like probation, parole, prison administration, education, and juvenile criminal justice.
- American Correctional Association - This professional organization strives to bring together multiple disciplines to advance the field and study of criminal justice. Health care and corrections professionals can earn ACA certifications for several specialty fields, including security threat groups, health care, adult corrections, and juvenile justice. The ACA also awards accreditation to national corrections agencies, ensuring that they adhere to strict quality guidelines and professional standards.
Open Criminal Justice Courseware
Criminal justice students have excellent resources to leverage online – the National Institute of Justice has released dozens of free open courses, with materials collected by federal agencies, labs, and universities across the nation. It is rare to find a field with so much research provided by the federal government. Prolific colleges like MIT and University of Michigan provide additional courses for professional enrichment.
- State and Tribal Collaboration Webinar - The NCJA has put together a free webinar series for policy makers, criminal justice professionals, and students to learn about the real-world collaboration between Judge Korey Wahwassuck of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Court and Minnesota Judge, John Smith, in 2006. The recordings dive into the process of changing local policies and criminal justice processes to a Joint Jurisdictional Wellness Court that targeted the area’s rising issues with drunk drivers.
- Cybercrime - This open course by the University of Michigan is a graduate level public policy course that explores the legislative history of cyber-criminal court cases and the distinctions between media product sampling online and piracy. This course is delivered in PDF format, recapping lecture discussions, class exercises, and textbook excerpts.
- Crime Scene and DNA Basics - The National Institute of Justice offers open courses to the public in forensics, court processes, law enforcement, and corrections operations. This intriguing course delves into currently available methods of DNA testing used by law enforcement agencies, along with techniques on preserving genetic information at crime scenes. You must sign up for a free National Institute of Justice username and password in order to access these open courses.
- Forensic Psychology - This graduate level course was taught by Dr. Asir Ajmal for the Virtual University of Pakistan. It is recommended that students complete an introductory level psychology course, such as Psych 101, before taking this open course. This course is unique in that it examines psychological issues that affect both criminals and members of the police force. Students will learn about police department challenges regarding the use of excessive force and traumatic stress syndromes. Violent offender profiles are thoroughly examined, so that students can become acquainted with cases of personality disorders and the psychology of terrorism.
- Race, Crime, and Citizenship in American Law - This reading seminar provided by MIT OpenCourseWare program covers theories and policies in action in the American justice system surrounding capital punishment, disenfranchised felons, illegal immigrants, and racial profiling. Students will also scrutinize justice system abuse, discrimination, and processes in a post-9/11 environment.
Open Access Criminal Justice Journals
Academic journals within criminal sciences tend to target specific regions or specialty fields. The following journals are dedicated to a broad range of criminal science research. Most of them can be viewed in web or PDF format.
- Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice - The APCJ is published twice a year, with issues available to readers both online and in print. This journal accepts articles from professionals in multiple disciplines, so long as the writing focuses on the role of psychology or behavioral studies in criminal justice. Since the APCJ is a peer-reviewed journal, criminal justice professionals can also apply to become a journal reviewer by demonstrating subject-matter knowledge and field experience.
- National Institute of Justice Journal - This is the official publication released by the U.S. Department of Justice. Articles cover a wide breadth of criminal justice topics, including law enforcement procedures, forensics, justice system reform, victimization, and crime prevention. Current and previous issues can be downloaded in several digital ereader formats, including PDF, EPUB, and MOBI.
- Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice - This publication boasts an impressive editorial board, with professors from Sul Ross University, the University of Houston, Colorado State University, and dozens of other academic institutions reviewing and publishing these industry articles. Submissions generally cover current news and developments within criminal justice policy and education, such as drug court policies, music piracy, police firearms, and child neglect sentencing. Each article can be downloaded as a free PDF.
- International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences - This open access publication was created by the South Asian Society of Criminology and Victimology (SASCV) to highlight ideas and research by criminal justice students and younger researchers. The first volume appeared in 2006, and new issues are released twice a year. Articles are available online as free PDF documents.
- Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture - This publication by the University at Albany takes a unique approach to criminal justice issues. Writers examine the impact of the American justice system on cultural media and vice versa. The articles explore how popular crime drama tropes on television influence criminal behavior, and how minority groups report criminal justice abuse in song lyrics and literature.
- Western Criminology Review - This is the official journal for the Western Society of Criminology, an academic and professional society based at California State University. Editors include faculty members from San Diego State University. This journal collects submissions that detail pedagogy methods, popular media reviews, research articles, and policy essays pertaining to criminal justice fields.
Criminal Justice Books
Popular criminal justice books range from pop psychology profiles on serial killers to more academic texts on current forensics technology and crime scene investigation procedures. Criminal science is multidisciplinary, as you will see in the following list of titles. These volumes are recommended for collegiate level studies and supplemental reading.
- The Will to Survive - Dr. Bobby Smith emphasizes how important emotional and mental health can be in law enforcement professions by sharing his own traumatic field experiences. Dr. Smith was shot and blinded by a violent drug offender. He uses these painful experiences as a springboard to address the emotional issues that plague law enforcement work, and emphasizes the healing roles of therapist and familial bonds.
- Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison - Michel Foucault offers canonical literature for many psychology, philosophy, and cultural studies departments. This is an in-depth analysis of the power dynamics present in Western criminal justice systems. This book can help you get a behind-the-scenes look at the human tendencies and behaviors at work in societies, as we plan punishments for criminal behavior.
- Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI - Author and former FBI investigator Robert Ressler is responsible for coining the term “serial killer.” This volume chronicles Resslers’ experiences with criminal psychology profiles, accompanied by chilling details from interviews with John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy. Ressler is also well known for guiding crime fiction author Thomas Harris as he penned the Hannibal Lecter series. This is a must-read for professionals analyzing violent crime patterns and serial killer profiles.
- How Can You Represent Those People? -
This is the disturbing question that public defenders and lawyers face on a regular basis, uncovering the intense biases and discriminatory mindsets of mainstream society. This book collects first-person accounts from legal professionals who have taken on cases that demonstrate the struggle and intersections between privilege, class, race, and criminal justice.
- To Kill a Mockingbird - While this was Harper Lee’s only novel, it was a breakthrough that caused ripples in American culture, education, and the justice system. Many professionals, specifically lawyers, cite To Kill a Mockingbird as the catalyst that drove them into them into the criminal justice field. Lee’s writing demonstrates how systematic racism creates an atmosphere of oppression in a small Southern town.
Online Criminal Justice Magazines
Criminal justice magazines tend to branch out to diverse audiences, such as policy makers, law enforcement employees, and scholars. It is important to consider the career path you are planning to take, as you seek out criminal justice periodicals. Like the open courses, the federal government also releases a wide range of research data online in magazine format.
- Criminal Justice Magazine - This is the quarterly magazine released by the American Bar Association, the national professional society for lawyers. Readers can download each issue as a full-color PDF. The target audience for this publication includes legal professionals and criminal justice policymakers.
- Crime Magazine - This online publication was founded in 1998 by journalists J. Patrick O’Connor and J.J. Maloney. It is a collection of prolific criminal justice cases, media reviews, justice system news, and criminal profiles.
- Campus Safety - This online and print publication features news articles that emphasize campus safety protocols for school administrators, students, and security teams. Popular topics include student record data security, guns on campus, safety in campus dorms, and school-wide emergency notification systems.
- Freedom from Fear - This is the official digital publication of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. The published articles revolve around global crime concerns such as drug trafficking, gang violence, and domestic abuse. Current and past issues are available as free PDF downloads from the publication’s website.
- Police Chief Magazine - This print and digital publication is released on a monthly basis, covering law enforcement news, policy updates, resources, and challenges. This magazine is managed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a professional society for police professionals around the world.
Criminal Justice Blogs
Get the inside scoop on how state, local, and federal law enforcement uses criminal justice tactics to solve cases. These blogs explore the steps investigators used to collect evidence, identify connections, and capture criminals. The following blog list collects research by the FBI, Homeland Security, law enforcement professionals, and a crime museum.
- The FBI News Blog - This is an official blog by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, covering international crime news and events. Students and professionals can learn about high-profile national and global historical and in-process cases. The FBI news blog experience is supplemented by video media and podcasts, which dive into breaking cases and spotlight notorious fugitives.
- The Crime Museum Blog - Brush up on your criminal justice trivia and get an inside look at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment collections by following their official blog. This D.C.-based museum showcases exhibits such as crime scene lab simulations, professional speakers, and detective challenges. The blog provides running commentary on new and historical criminal court cases.
- In Homeland Security - This is the official blog managed by the American Military University, displaying breaking news on terrorism, national security threats, Homeland Security developments, and national policy concerns. This digital publication posts articles from national military experts and foreign correspondents, operating in partnership with The International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals.
- Cops Alive - This is a blog dedicated to law enforcement training and wellness. Since the criminal justice field can take a significant toll on professionals’ mental and physical health, this blog seeks to provides coping strategies and lifestyle advice to those who serve within the police force.
- Prison Culture - This blog analyzes prison culture in the United States and how it influences our media depictions and societal perception of criminals. Prison Culture also highlights innovative local crime reduction tactics, such as the social media violence awareness campaigns, which spread across Chicago in 2013.
Who to Follow on Twitter
Students and professionals in criminal science fields can speak directly with the experts via Twitter. The following Twitter handles belong to some of the most prolific names and organizations within academic, research, and professional criminal science communities. These are the accounts that you should follow if you want to keep on top of current field developments and news.
- @CTUJustice - This is the Twitter account of Richard Holloway, a lawyer and director for the Criminal Justice program at Colorado Technical University. Holloway regularly tweets about breaking court cases and public safety news on his Twitter feed. He often engages with students in online tweet discussions.
- @changeJustice - This is the official Twitter account for change.org, dedicated to criminal justice reform and current issues. This publication focuses on high-profile national and state policy cases, in an effort to raise awareness about change.org’s online petitions.
- @ABAJS - Students and professionals can keep an eye on this official American Bar Association account for up-to-date coverage regarding criminal justice legislation and policy changes. This Twitter account often highlights free online ABA webinars, where you can network with others in the criminal justice fields.
- @CJCaucus - This is the official account of the Criminal Justice Caucus at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. This is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to get a glimpse of the pressing issues being discussed in current criminal justice academic programs.