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Congratulations to the student affiliates of the Program in Criminal Justice who are graduating this year!

How race, gender, and birth year predict exposure to gun violence

The Harvard Gazette interviewed PCJ faculty affiliate Robert J. Sampson about his new study examining exposure to gun violence from youth to middle-age. The study reveals stark racial disparities — with more than half of Black and Hispanic respondents witnessing a shooting by age 14 on average — and surprising insights on the role of birth year. “The idea here is to take a life-course perspective,” said Robert J. Sampson, the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor. “When is exposure to gun violence happening? How does that change over the life course? And how do those patterns vary by race, sex, and all the societal changes that are happening?” 

We are excited to announce the recipients of the 2023 Malcolm Wiener Center Qualitative Research Grants, a research initiative launched by Sandra Susan Smith that offers grants to faculty and students to support the development of qualitative research projects about social policy. 

To assess the effect of accreditation of jail health care services on health care processes, inmate health outcomes, and racial health equity, Marcella Alsan and Crystal Yang  will collect data on experiences of correctional staff and incarcerated patients. Cierra Robson will explore how lawyers – prosecutors and defense attorneys – mobilize algorithms to achieve their ends and examines what effect their efforts have on detention outcomes.

We are excited to announce the 2023 recipients of Program in Criminal Justice Graduate Student Research Grants: George Hutchins, Ash Smith, and Michael Zanger-Tishler.  The award process was open to PhD candidates from any of the units on Harvard’s campus and priority was given to students who are conducting research that is timely and whose findings have the potential to shape policy and/or conducting research that tackles an important set of questions related to specific policies in the criminal legal realm.  


New research by Sharad Goel presents a new framework for quantifying disparate impact in multi-stage, multi-actor settings.


"Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Social Costs of Pretrial Electronic Monitoring in San Francisco," a new paper by Sandra Susan Smith & Cierra Robson, examines the harms of pretrial electronic monitoring.


New research by Yanilda González and Lindsay Mayka looks at the  mechanisms through which democratic participation can reproduce, rather than ameliorate, inequality in citizenship and policing.


Arnold Ventures has published a new discussion paper by Sandra Susan Smith that looks at the evidence that pretrial release does not increase crime and actually increases public safety.


Felix Owusu examines the Suffolk County DA misdemeanor declination and diversion policy which significantly reduced prosecution rates with no increase in recidivism.


"How the Shift Toward Presumptive Nonprosecution of Misdemeanor Offenses Affects Racial Disparities in Current and Future Penal System Outcomes."


New policy brief by Chris Herring and Sandra Susan Smith hopes to inform policies aimed at increasing employment opportunities for justice-involved individuals.


Isabella Jorgensen and Sandra Susan Smith provide key considerations for jurisdictions interested in implementing bail reforms.


This policy brief  highlights some promising paths forward for decriminalization that also lead to reductions in racial disparities. 


This new study by Joscha Legewie and Nino José Cricco explores the consequences of policing for the educational outcomes of minority youth.


New research by Will Dobbie and colleagues looks at the pathways of racial disparities in judicial bail decisions.


"No Justice, No Pleas: Subverting Mass Incarceration Through Defendant Collective Action" by Andrew Manuel Crespo takes a look at "plea bargain unions" as an act of resistance that could upend the system of coercive plea bargaining.


In a new interview, Rob Sampson discusses disadvantage, race, neighborhood vitality, crime, and the life of cities.


Commentary by Sandra Susan Smith argues that mass incarceration hasn’t ended in San Francisco, or anywhere else. To achieve that, governments would first have to devolve power to the communities it has harmed the most.

Myths abound about what public safety is and how it is achieved. These myths have been the basis of efforts toward mass incarceration, aided in the destruction of lives and communities, and fed huge racial disparities all the while, research shows, making the public less safe. Through discussions about both lived experience and innovative research, we hope to guide policymakers, practitioners, advocates, researchers, and community members in envisioning new practices, procedures, and policies that will bring about safe and thriving communities for all. This spring our focus was Parole.

In Fall 2022, we were joined by experts to debunk public safety myths in the pretrial context. Some of our speakers illuminated how the system fails to deliver on core precepts of “justice”—like the presumption of innocence, the right to counsel, or the right to a jury trial—while others closely examined how advocates and practitioners are working to implement evidence-based approaches while changing norms on the ground. In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights from the series.

The Roundtable brings together leaders from across the Commonwealth, including community organizers, social/racial justice organizers, academics/researchers, policymakers, criminal legal system agency heads, and judges. The overall goal of the Roundtable is to profoundly influence future policies, practices, and procedures in Massachusetts that will help to eradicate sources of racial inequities and resulting disparities in the courts. 

News and Commentary

‘We just want to be OK’: MA dangerousness law is broken, activists & survivors tell 25 Investigates
Boston 25 News, May 17, 2023
Featured: Katy Naples-Mitchell

Authors Discuss Implications of Cannabis Legalization at Harvard Institute of Politics Forum
The Harvard Crimson, April 13, 2023
Featured: Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Harvard Affiliates Rally for Gun Control Reform Following Nashville Shooting
The Harvard Crimson, April 5, 2023
Featured: Cornell William Brooks

Harvard Kennedy School Professor Cornell Williams Brooks Declares ‘Policing is in a State of Crisis’ at IOP Forum
The Harvard Crimson, February 28, 2023
Featured: Cornell William Brooks, Yanilda María González, and Sandra Susan Smith

The state of police reform in the U.S. after the death of Tyre Nichols
WBUR, February 02, 2023
Interview with Yanilda González

Tyre Nichols: Memphis reckons with murder charges for black officers
BBC, January 27, 2023
Quoted: Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Memphis police release Tyre Nichols video
CNN, January 27, 2023
Featured: Cornell William Brooks

More News and Commentary

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