• Kenneth Sebastian León, Ph.D.
  • Kenneth Sebastian León, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor
  • LCS and Criminal Justice Program
  • Office: Office Room: A-259, Lucy Stone Hall, Livingston Campus
  • Phone: (848) 445-4242

PhD. 2017. American University
MA. 2013. George Washington University
BS. 2011. Florida State University
2008. Ft. Lauderdale High

Research Interests

crimes of the powerful; political economies of justice systems; carceral studies; race and justice; food systems

Website: www.ksebastianleon.com

Biographical Information

Kenneth Sebastian León is an Assistant Professor of Latino and Caribbean Studies and Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. He specializes in crimes of the powerful and racialized social control, with substantive emphases on three related topics: a) food and drug regulatory regimes; b) civic & socio-legal (im)mobilities; and c) the colonial-carceral functions of contemporary justice systems.

León is a former research contractor at U.S. Department of Justice – National Institute of Justice, and has extensive experience studying localized public safety challenges. These include medium and large-scale collaborative studies of the Colombian National Police, the Honduran National Police, U.S. jails, and the transnational capacity of MS-13 in the United States and El Salvador.

León’s book, Corrupt Capital – Alcohol, Nightlife, and Crimes of the Powerful (Routledge, 2020), intimately describes and explains the social, political, and economic forces that make white-collar crime and corruption a staple feature of the nightlife economy. Methodologically, the research is innovative in advancing inquiry into ethically and logistically challenging environments while avoiding the voyeuristic and reductionist tropes historically associated with "dangerous fieldwork" in traditional criminological settings.

Additional works appear in Criminology & Public Policy; Critical Criminology; Crime, Law and Social Change; Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology; International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy; Journal of Psychoactive Drugs; the Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology; Race and Justice; among other refereed and public outlets.

In addition to his independent research agenda, León is an active collaborator with colleagues both within and beyond his home departments. Ongoing research includes “COVID-19 and (Im)Mobility in the Americas", a transnational collaboration steered by Dr. Ulla Berg, which examines the impacts of COVID-19 on measures and processes of racialized social control, migration, public safety, and human rights. (Please visit inmovilidadamericas.org.) León is also a co-PI on a project funded by the Rutgers Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, where he and two RU colleagues are empirically documenting the relationship between COVID-19 and migrant detention and deportation within the state of New Jersey.

His overarching mission is to co-produce innovative scholarship and pedagogies that draw from ethnic studies, Latino studies, and both the humanistic and positivist social sciences to address preventable harms and racialized violence both in and beyond criminal justice settings. For a current CV and more information about his research and teaching portfolio, please visit www.ksebastianleon.com.



2020* León, Kenneth Sebastian. 2020. Corrupt Capital – Alcohol, Nightlife, and Crimes of the Powerful. Routledge – Crimes of the Powerful Series. *In Press. (https://www.routledge.com/Corrupt-Capital-Alcohol-Nightlife-and-Crimes-of-the-Powerful/Leon/p/book/9780367185817)


Select Works Available in Open Access Format Here.

2020. Barak, Maya, Kenneth S. León, and Edward Maguire. 2020. Conceptual and Empirical Obstacles in Defining MS-13: Law-Enforcement Perspectives. Criminology & Public Policy 19(2): 563-589. (https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9133.12493)

2019. León, Kenneth Sebastian. 2019. The Colombian National Police and the Politics of Crime Control Evaluations. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 8(4): 18-32. (https://www.crimejusticejournal.com/article/view/1101)

2019. León, Kenneth and Ivy Ken. 2018. Legitimized Fraud and the State-Corporate Criminology of Food - A Spectrum-Based Theory. Crime, Law and Social Change 71: 25-46. ( https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-018-9787-6)

2017. Gould, Jon and Kenneth León. 2017. A Culture that is Hard to Defend: Extralegal Factors in the Defense of Federal Death Penalty Cases. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 107(4): 643-686. (https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/jclc/vol107/iss4/3/)

2017. León, Kenneth and Ivy Ken. 2017. Food Fraud and the Partnership for a ‘Healthier’ America: A Case Study in State-Corporate Crime. Critical Criminology 25: 393-410. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10612-017-9363-x)

2016. León, Kenneth S. and Daniel E. Martinez. 2016. To Study, to Party, or Both? Assessing Risk Factors for Non-Prescribed Stimulant Use Among Middle and High School Students. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 49(1): 22-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2016.1260187

2014. León, Kenneth and Ronald Weitzer. 2014. Legalizing Marijuana: Comparing Ballot Outcomes in Four States. Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice & Criminology 2(2): 193-218. (https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/63482/)


2020. León, Kenneth Sebastian. 2020. Book Review: Presumed Criminal – Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York by Carl Suddler. New York University Press, 2019. Race and Justice.

2018. León, Kenneth. 2018. Minority-Owned Cannabis Businesses as a Social Justice Imperative. In J. Hill and N. Marion (eds.) More on Legalizing Marijuana: Ongoing Shifts in American Policies. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press. (Book Chapter)

2015. León, Kenneth and Ronald Weitzer. 2015. Marijuana Legalization: Comparing Recent Ballot Initiatives. In J. Hill and N. Marion (eds.) Legalizing a crime: Marijuana policies across America. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press. (Book Chapter)


2020. León, Kenneth Sebastian Racial Justice Includes Keeping Your Employees. Op-Ed. The Daily Targum. June 12. (https://www.dailytargum.com/article/2020/06/commentary-racial-justice-includes-retaining-your-employees

2019. León, Kenneth Sebastian and Maya P. Barak. “The Salvadoran Willie Horton and Racist Migration Policies: Debunking and Reframing Crime and Safety Claims.” Citizen Critics. (https://citizencritics.org/2019/07/the-salvadoran-willie-horton-ms-13-electoral-politics-and-racialized-fear-mongering/)

2019. Scholar Spotlight | Latina/o/x Criminology (https://www.latcrim.org/featured-scholars.html

2019. Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss Facebook Misconduct by CBP Agents, Philadelphia Police. AlertArticles. July 2. (https://alertarticles.info/rutgers-expert-available-to-discuss-facebook-misconduct-by-cbp-agents-philadelphia-police/)

2019. Criminologist Available to Discuss New Jersey Cannabis Reforms and Racial Inequities. May 16. NewsWise. (https://www.newswise.com/articles/criminologist-available-to-discuss-new-jersey-cannabis-reforms-and-racial-inequities)

2018. Schmid, Thacher. No link between homeless villages and crime rates, Guardian review suggests. The Guardian. May 23. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/23/homeless-villages-crime-rate-seattle-portland)

2017. Gould, Jon and Kenneth León. 2017. Legal Aid for Capital Punishment Cases Depends on Where You Live: Study. The Crime Report. https://thecrimereport.org/2017/11/07/legal-aid-for-capital-punishment-cases-depends-on-where-you-live-study/

2015. León, Kenneth. 2015. Colombia’s National Policing Model: Real Success? AULA Blog – AU Center for Latin American & Latino Studies. (https://aulablog.net/2015/10/02/colombias-national-policing-model-real-success/)