Stockholm university

Criminology prize for research on legitimacy and legal security

The 2024 Stockholm Prize in Criminology is awarded to the American professors Gary LaFree and Tom R. Tyler for their research on democratic legitimacy and procedural justice in policing democracies.

Criminology prize winners 2024
Gary LaFree and Tom R. Tyler are awarded The 2024 Stockholm Prize in Criminology. Photo: John Consoli/University of Maryland and Yale Law School.

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology is the world's most prestigious award in the field of criminology. The prize recognizes outstanding achievements in criminological research or for the application of research results by practitioners for the reduction of crime and the advancement of human rights. The prize amount is SEK 1 million each year.


Research on legitimacy of legal institutions and governance

On November 6, it was announced who will be awarded the prize for 2024. It goes to two leading researchers on the legitimacy of legal institutions and governance.

Gary LaFree, author of Losing Legitimacy: Street Crime and The Decline of Social Institutions In America (1998) and founder of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), has made outstanding contributions to the criminology of legitimacy, especially at the macro-social level, and in the role of ideologies.

Tom R. Tyler, author of Why People Obey the Law (1990) and (with Yuen J. Ho) Trust in the Law: Encouraging Cooperation with Police and the Courts, has made outstanding contributions to the criminology of legitimacy, especially at the micro-social level, with his theories of procedural justice shown by independent field experiments to increase community trust in democratic policing by changing the ways in which police interact with citizens. 


The role of police in democratic societies

The idea that the rulers must have the consent of the governed – if the democratic society is to function – is old, but the science of how political decision-makers can win, or lose, the will of the public to comply with laws and regulations is relatively new. This science is strongly linked to modern criminological research, both in terms of theory development and empirical studies.

These questions are particularly relevant when it comes to society's measures against crime and other disturbances of social order. Even more so when it comes to the role of the police in a democratic society. The prizewinners' research indicates that if the police apply principles of treating citizens correctly, respectfully and without prejudice, even those citizens who break the law, this can lead to a reduction in the propensity for crime on an individual level and also to a reduction in crime on a societal level.

The 2024 the Stockholm Prize in Criminology will therefore be presented to the leading scientists in both macro and micro research, respectively, on the legitimacy of legal institutions and governance.


Offered dynamic perspectives

In sharp departures from the more static traditional theories of why some people commit crime, both of the 2024 prize winners have offered far more dynamic perspectives.

Gary LaFree's research has shown that the increased violence in American society during much of the 20th century was related to rapid social, economic and political changes. These changes drastically reduced public trust in central social institutions, not least the police. The changes were most noticeable in socially and economically disadvantaged areas, with large minority populations. When violence in American society declined in the late 20th century, according to LaFree, it came as a response to national and local reforms designed to address racial discrimination, injustice, and efforts aimed at increasing education and employment opportunities for the most vulnerable groups of the population. This led to increased and stabilized confidence in the legality of social institutions. Even the development of the terrorist problem has a connection with how different population groups experience the legitimacy of the established society.

Tom Tyler's research focuses on the nature of interactions between individuals and social institutions, not least the police. His theory challenged of the primacy of deterrence by threats of punishment with an alternative based on legitimacy, ultimately framing his concepts as the four pillars of procedural justice.

Based on extensive survey research in Chicago, New York and other large cities, Tyler suggested that these pillars can be created by authorities, such as police officers, if they offer citizens they encounter;
1) Respect, with all individuals treated with dignity,
2) Voice, by which authorities listen to citizens seeking a chance to express their concerns and participate in decision-making processes by stating their own version of relevant facts,
3)  Neutrality, with unbiased decisions guided by consistent and transparent reasoning, and
4)  Trustworthiness, earned by decision-makers stating their motives of concern about the well-being of those affected by their decisions.

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology is an international prize established under the aegis of the Swedish Ministry of Justice with major donations from the Torsten Söderberg Foundation to make the prize permanent. The prize is awarded for outstanding achievements in criminological research or for the application of research results by practitioners for the reduction of crime and the advancement of human rights.

The objectives of the prize are to promote the development of: improved knowledge of the causes of crime at an individual and structural level, more effective and humane public policies for dealing with criminal offenders, greater knowledge of alternative crime prevention strategies inside and outside the judicial system, policies for helping the victims of crime, better ways to reduce the global problem of illegal or abusive practices that may occur in the administration of justice.

The prize was presented for the first time in June 2006 at the City Hall in Stockholm, with the Jerry Lee Foundation, the Torsten Söderberg Foundation, the Tokyo based Hitachi Mirai Foundation and the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation as contributors to the prize at the start. The prize ceremony has been held every year since then, always in conjunction with the 3-day Stockholm Criminology Symposium organized by the Swedish National Council on Crime Prevention. It is awarded annually and amounts in 2024 to SEK 1 million. The prize is usually awarded by H.M. Queen Silvia, sometimes the Minister of Justice.

More information about the Prize and winners since 2006 can be found at and