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Public criminologies

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Research Summary

Public scholarship aspires to bring social science home to the individuals, communities, and institutions that are its focus of study. In particular, it seeks to narrow the yawning gap between public perceptions and the best available scientific evidence on issues of public concern. Yet nowhere is the gap between perceptions and evidence greater than in the study of crime. Here, we outline the prospects for a public criminology, conducting and disseminating research on crime, law, and deviance in dialogue with affected communities. We present historical data on the media discussion of criminology and sociology, and we outline the distinctive features of criminology—interdisciplinary, a subject matter that incites moral panics, and a practitioner base actively engaged in knowledge production—that push the boundaries of public scholarship.

Policy Implications

Discussions of public sociology have drawn a bright line separating policy work from professional, critical, and public scholarship. As the research and policy essays published in Criminology & Public Policy make clear, however, the best criminology often is conducted at the intersection of these domains. A vibrant public criminology will help to bring new voices to policy discussions while addressing common myths and misconceptions about crime.
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Keywords: criminologists; history; policy; public scholarship

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Distinguished McKnight Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. 2: Associate Professor of Sociology at Oregon State University.

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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