Message from the Chair

Welcome to the Department of Justice Studies

Paul Knepper, Ph.D.Declaring a major in one of our degree programs means that you will be joining a department with a deep tradition at SJSU. We began in the 1930s, when T.W. MacQuarrie, president of the college, established a course of study for aspiring police officers. Declaring a major in Justice Studies also means that you will be joining one of the largest departments at SJSU. When you graduate, you will be part of our extensive network of alumni working in criminal justice, forensic science, legal services, and social justice.

Justice Studies graduates cross disciplinary boundaries to understand the realities of crime, law and justice; and lead efforts for improving current practices and developing meaningful alternatives. We want our graduates to apply analytical thinking and interdisciplinary perspectives; develop a repertoire of transferable skills, including writing, research, problem-solving; and maintain a commitment to work for positive change in institutional and social responses to crime, inequalities, and injustice. 

When the Police School opened in 1930, SJSU became the first university in the USA to offer a degree in criminal justice. That tradition of excellence and innovation continues. In 2003, we added forensic science and became the Department of Justice Studies, a multidisciplinary department that encompasses criminal justice and criminology, but also forensic science, legal studies, and human rights. We offer the BS in Justice Studies, with a concentration in criminology; a BS in Forensic Science with concentrations in Biology and Chemistry; and minors in Legal Studies, Human Rights, and Forensic Science. Starting Fall 2020, we offer a concentration in Digital Evidence within the Forensic Science program.

In addition to our undergraduate programs, we offer two graduate programs: the MS degree in Justice Studies, and an online program, the MS in Criminology-Concentration in Global Criminology. We have designed our curriculum to provide an academic and practical understanding of justice in local, national, and international contexts.

All of our degree programs feature an outstanding faculty who are recognized for their research in criminology, law and society, forensic science, criminal justice and public policy. Faculty research projects are underway in areas of crime control in under-privileged communities, concentrations of re-entry of formerly-incarcerated individuals; predicting externally visible traits from DNA samples; criminalization of immigrants by news media; applications of molecular biology in criminal justice; using entomology to age blood stains since the time of bloodshed; politics of terrorism and international conflict; poverty, racial inequalities, and social policy; social movement organizations and human trafficking; at-risk Latino and African-American youth; cybercrime and online sex crimes; immigration, crime and victimization; and the rise of transnational crime and transnationalization of criminal law.

Our faculty contribute to theoretical advances, including theories of punishment and control, feminist theory, critical theories of race and racism, and international and comparative political theory, and they demonstrate a wide range of methodological expertise, including techniques including urban ethnography, policy analysis, statistical applications, quantitative methods, discourse analysis, social network analysis, cross-cultural inquiry, archival research. And yet Justice Studies is more than the study of theory and methods. You will have the opportunity to engage in real-world activities with a major impact. The Record Clearance Project trains volunteers to make presentations concerning expungement law and employment rights of people with criminal convictions.

In the Department of Justice Studies, a lot happens outside the classroom. Students are active in the Alpha Phi Sigma Iota chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society; Chi Pi Sigma Fraternity; Justice Studies Task Force, and Forensic Studies Students Club.  Students benefit from activities such as the Ann Lucas Lecture Series in Law and Justice; Beyond the Books Lecture series; and Themis—Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science. We have built an extensive base of linkages with agencies and organizations outside the university to provide students with opportunities for internships and international study abroad.

You can apply for scholarships including the Kristofer Boaz Claspill Memorial, Officer Jeffrey Fontana Memorial, Shelby B. Brewer Memorial Theresa Edel Memorial, Daniel P. Lomio Memorial, Paul Stone Hubbell Endowment, and Gene Simpson & Gordon Silva Memorial.  We offer multiple graduate assistantships each year. Graduate assistants receive a stipend to assist faculty in research, teaching or administrative activities while pursuing their degree.

Finally, declaring a major in one of our programs means that you will benefit from all those who have gone before you and have given us such as great reputation. Justice Studies graduates from San José State University are prominent in legal practice, probation services, policing, forensic sciences, security, juvenile justice, and victim service organizations throughout the region, the state, and beyond. Come join us!

Paul Knepper, Ph.D.

Department Chair