Outline and Boxes on a Blue Blackground

Criminal Justice

The criminal justice system is complex, imperfect, and essential to a well-functioning civil society. Police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, and policymakers all play a role in shaping this system to ensure public safety and fair policing, examine the causes and ramifications of mass incarceration, assess criminal statutes, explore alternatives to traditional punishment, reduce recidivism, and provide opportunities for the formerly incarcerated to rebuild their lives.

How does criminal law help regulate socially undesirable behavior, protect victims’ and defendants’ rights, ensure fair trials, and determine appropriate punishment?

Columbia Law faculty approach criminal justice issues from a multitude of perspectives—historical, political, philosophical, sociological, and intersectional—and raise questions about race, class, and geography. Working directly with faculty, Columbia Law students have opportunities to work on real cases that advance reforms in areas such as cash bail, sentencing, juvenile justice, and capital punishment as well as on research projects that use data analytics to study crime rates and policing methodologies.

Why Columbia?

Learn from professors, including full-time and adjunct faculty who are active prosecutors, defense attorneys, and sitting state and federal judges.

Collaborate with faculty on research for criminal appeals and on controversial policing practices.

Develop oral advocacy and other litigation skills in simulated cases in the Trial Practice seminar.

Experience the interplay between the law and its enforcement through externships with the district attorney’s offices in Brooklyn and Manhattan and federal prosecutors and judges.

Explore contemporary issues in the federal prosecution of white-collar crime, with special attention to crimes committed within corporations and other large organizations.

Advocate for clients in numerous externships and clinics, arguing in state and federal courts on behalf of incarcerated individuals and helping draft amicus briefs in support of death-sentenced individuals in state court.

Produce A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, a handbook of legal rights and procedures designed for use by people in prison who want to represent themselves.

Related Faculty

Brett Dignam

Brett Dignam

  • Vice Dean for Experiential Education and Clinical Professor of Law
Professor Philip Genty

Philip M. Genty

  • Everett B. Birch Innovative Teaching Clinical Professor in Professional Responsibility
Professor Bernard Harcourt

Bernard E. Harcourt

  • Isidore and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science

Experiential Learning Opportunities

Close up of the columns of the Supreme Court building with an American flag and the US Capitol in the background

Public Interest/Public Service

No matter what your area of interest, find ways to incorporate public interest and public service into your academic program and career.

Academics Careers

Related Student Groups and Journals

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Criminal Justice Action Network
  • Domestic Violence Project
  • Prison Healthcare Initiative
  • Public Defender Students of Columbia Law School
  • Tenants’ Rights Project
  • Columbia Human Rights Law Review

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