The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice is a newly established department in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and to-date, the one and only department of this nature, in Sri Lanka. Nearly three decades ago, with the initiative and guidance of our late senior professor Nandasena Ratnapala, the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree in Criminology was introduced to students by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
During the mid-1980s, the late Senior Professor Nandasena Ratnapala, the Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, was the key figure in introducing this novel subject to the Sri Lankan University curriculum. As young behavioral and empirical social science, Criminology and Criminal Justice mainly focus on crime and crime related social and legal settings. The prime objective of this multi-disciplinary field of study is to prevent and control crime in order to uplift the quality of individuals’ social lives.
Initially, Criminology was taught as a fourth-year special subject combined with the subject “Social Problems” by the Ex-Prison Commissioner General late Mr. J.P. Delgoda, as a visiting lecturer under the guidance of Professor Ratnapala. For the first time, under the Headship of Senior Lecturer E.K. Ganihigama and with the consultation of Retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Dr. S.P. Dharmadasa, as well as with the patronage of the then residential representative of the Asian Foundation Mr. Richard Guyer, commenced the four-year special degree programme in Criminology and Criminal Justice, during the academic year 1985/86. At the time, the Administrative Vice-Chancellor of the University of Illinois Professor Richard Ward was instrumental in initiating the degree programme at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
With the continuous guidance of Professor Ratnapala, numerous postgraduate diplomas as well as degrees were commenced. Owing to its applicability, these postgraduate programmes in Criminology and Criminal Justice have been widely accepted especially, by the employees of the Department of Police, Prison, Probation, Customs, Immigration and Emigration as well as the Legal sector. Concurrently, M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. degree programmes were introduced under the direction of Professor Ratnapala. In the early 2000s, a Criminology and Criminal Justice Diploma was introduced mainly to address the educational needs of non-graduate employees of the Police, Prison, Probation, Customs, Immigration and Emigration, etc. Presently, the Police Department has sponsored their own employees to follow this programme as a way of enhancing the quality of the police service.
In 2012, considering the vital necessity of this new discipline of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Senior Lecturer Dr. R.N. Sunil made a formal request to establish a separate department to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, under the Headship of Professor M.W. Jayasundara. Although it has taken a long period to obtain the official approval of the University Grants Commission, in 2016 the authority to set up a separate Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice was granted.
Besides these existing programs, B.A Special Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice was commenced in English Medium for the first time with 6 undergraduates. There are 80 undergraduates registered for the Special Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Furthermore, one year M.A Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice is to be introduced in the near future in accordance with Sri Lankan Quality Framework.
In the wake of this historical creation, Professor Sampath Amarathunga, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor P. Athukorala and Senior Lecturer Lasantha Nawaratne, the past and present Deans of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Senior Lecturers W.M. Dhanapala, Udayakumara Amarasinghe, Dr. R.B.N. Sunil, and Dr. Nerangi Wijewardena have been very supportive and cooperative toward this endeavor. Also, all the colleagues of the University have been very keen to see us functioning as an independent Department and must remember all of them with profound gratitude. Not forgetting the Criminology undergraduates who have been waiting impatiently to see their Department becoming an independent should also be acknowledged with affection.