During his studies Professor Sarnecki also worked part-time at several youth recreation centres. This experience influenced the direction his research was to take and although he gained his PhD in sociology he became an expert on Swedish juvenile delinquency and moved into the field of criminology. After a spell working at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, where he was recruited for his work on juvenile delinquency, he took up the chair of criminology at Stockholm University in 1993.

Jerzy Sarnecki
Jerzy Sarnecki talks about criminology as a leading academic discipline


Since then Professor Sarnecki has been involved in the emergence of criminology as a leading academic discipline.

"Even every small university has courses in criminology," says Sarnecki. "There's been an enormous explosion of interest in this field of research."

Sarnecki, whose position is officially entitled Chair of General Criminology, retains his long-standing interest in the question of crime amongst young people in Sweden. He is currently leading a longitudinal research project entitled: “The Stockholm Boys: Life Courses and Crime in the Swedish Welfare State Through Half a Century”. This research follows up on two previous studies of men who participated in the Clientele Study of 1956, and Jonsson’s and Kälvesten’s 322 Stockholm boys and investigates both the horizontal and vertical diffusion of criminality. The study also examines the importance of a changing social structure in the men’s lives.

"In terms of the work being done at the department," explains Sarnecki, "there's a strong focus on Swedish and to some extent Scandinavian crime in society. Although we have international contacts and participate with colleagues abroad, there is actually very little research done on international crime."

With Sweden as a focus, most of the teaching at the department is done in Swedish.

"We do have some English-speaking lecturers but we run only a few courses in English in the department for students at advanced level or graduate students," says Sarnecki.

Nevertheless, through Professor Sarnecki, the department retains a relatively high profile internationally in that Sarnecki is the co-chairman of The Stockholm Prize in Criminology.

The prize was first awarded in 2006 after Sarnecki and professor Lawrence Sherman from Cambridge University were discussing the possibility of whether there would ever be a Nobel Prize in Criminology, whilst seated in a Parisian café. The idea set them thinking and with support from the Swedish Ministry of Justice, the Stockholm Prize in Criminology was born. 

This year the 2011 Prize was awarded to John Laub of the National Institute of Justice in the USA and Robert Sampson of Harvard University, USA, "for their research showing why and how criminals stop offending" (Source: www.criminologyprize.com).

"I think it's important there is a prize for work in criminology," says Sarnecki. "There is considerable interest in crime prevention in society. As researchers we have an important part to play in the policy making process. We need to have improved knowledge on the causes of crime, effective public polices for dealing with offenders and greater knowledge of alternative crime prevention strategies inside and outside the judicial system."

Visit the Department of Criminology's website at

Interview and text: Jon Buscall