Since its founding in 1910 by Dean John Henry Wigmore, the Journal has played a unique role in the history of criminal law and criminology in the United States. The Journal was a product of the “National Conference on Criminal Law and Criminology,” held in 1909 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Northwestern University School of Law. The Conference elected Dean Wigmore as its first president and resulted in the creation of the Journal. Its purpose was to articulate and promote a criminal justice reform agenda, associated with the Progressive Era that dominated the first third of the twentieth century.
In its early years, the Journal promoted the Progressive reform agenda by providing a forum for the contributions of lawyers, legal scholars, and social scientists on the issues of criminal justice reform. The Journal overcame disciplinary divisions to combine the areas of criminal law and criminology. This unique interdisciplinary approach defines the Journal today, as the only journal in the world that combines both criminal law and criminology. While the Journal still deals with social science, much of the Journal today focuses on legal doctrine, including constitutional criminal procedure.
Today, the Progressive reform agenda so dominant in the beginning of the century seems distant. We are seeing the reversal of a trend toward reformative goals of punishment and experiencing an unprecedented rise in our prison populations. We live in a time when levels of violence in schools are rising, yet see a paradoxical decrease in the overall crime rates. We witness the recurrence of the criminal justice system as a topic in local and national politics.
As it has done for the past one hundred years, the Journal continues to provide a forum for dialogue and debate on current criminal law and criminology issues.
The Journal remains one of the most widely read and widely cited publications in the world. It is the second most widely subscribed journal published by any law school in the country. It is one of the most widely circulated law journals in the country, and our broad readership includes judges and legal academics, as well as practitioners, criminologists, and police officers. Research in the area of criminal law and criminology addresses concerns that are pertinent to most of American society. The Journal strives to publish the very best scholarship in this area, inspiring the intellectual debate and discussion essential to the development of social reform.