Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Karen R. Miller

Subject Categories

American Studies | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Higher Education | Political History | Social History | United States History | Urban Education


carceral studies, CUNY, history of education, Law Enforcement Education Program, liberalism, prison abolition, New York studies, policing


This thesis centers policing ideology in higher education and the way it is constructed and fortified through criminal justice programs. In 1968, the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) made funds available to police officers to attend college and awarded grants to universities to create criminal justice programs. The program effectively funneled federal money into the project of professionalizing the police and developed criminal justice as a field devoted to conducting crime research, as defined by the federal government. Criminal justice programs exploded across the country with the availability of LEEP funding, and the City University of New York’s (CUNY) John Jay College of Criminal Justice was the largest beneficiary, becoming a prominent arbiter of liberal arts focused criminal justice education. This thesis is based on a study of federal policy and university programs historically and an ethnographic examination of one college-level criminal justice program in particular. I argue that criminal justice education is complicit in the expansion of the carceral state by legitimizing its ideology and staffing its workforce. By taking for granted that the carceral state can be reformed, criminal justice education increases the scope and power of the prison industrial complex while claiming to produce workers, policy, and research that make policing and prisons less deadly.