Ignoring Warnings, I Became a Criminologist

Jackson Toby, Rutgers University

Criminology is a vast and changing field, and there are many niches within it. Consequently, giving advice runs the risk of being irrelevant. Nevertheless, I have learned a few lessons that may be useful. First, it seems to me that a criminologist who wishes to do academically respectable research should be deeply rooted intellectually in an academic discipline. I have always considered myself a sociologist first and a criminologist second. It is true that nowadays there are schools of criminal justice and departments of criminal justice; they present a temptation to regard oneself as a specialst in criminal justice rather than in sociology or psychology or law. I think that losing a strong disciplinary identity diminishes creativity. It is more difficult to maintain a disciplinary identity when one is employed in such a school or department, but it is possible and ultimately beneficial to one's career. Second, it seems to me that a comparative emphasis enhances our understanding or crime: comparative ethnically, by gender, by race, by country, by age, by type of offense, by type of offender.

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Updated 05/20/2006