This research programme aims to pick up – and provide an answer to – a question that was left open at the end of Public Criminology? (Loader and Sparks 2010). In that book it was argued that one can most coherently and plausibly interpret criminology’s engagements in public life by understanding them as different attempts to contribute to a ‘better politics of crime and its regulation’. But why do we need a better politics of crime? What might such a politics look like? What real substance can be given to that vacuous, slippery term ‘better’? What’s the best we can hope for in penal politics? Can a better politics of crime be theoretically and practically articulated in a manner that avoids windy rhetoric or wishful thinking? This programme is concerned with these questions.