fbpx The Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management | Harvard Kennedy School

Join us on Wednesday, 3/29 for the next event in our Special Topics series, a portrait of how public health and law enforcement collide in a small rural community in California. David Showalter's qualitative research illustrates how law enforcement used everyday interactions and overlapping social networks to investigate people who used drugs in a small community, an approach that interrupted harm reduction efforts and, ultimately, impeded people's attempts to use drugs in safer ways. Though focused on a single small town, the research generates bigger questions about what produces safety and how, in small communities in particular, surveillance and criminalization can seep out beyond policing to healthcare settings, neighbors, and whole communities -- potentially putting people already living on the margins in more dangerous situations. Please join us for an important discussion.

Why police resist reforms to militarization

Jessica Katzenstein, a Harvard Inequality in America fellow and PCJ Postdoctoral fellow, discusses her research into the militarization of U.S. law enforcement, how police militarization can fail to protect individuals from the kinds of threats it was intended to thwart, and its tendency to foster a culture of self-protection that can result in unnecessarily violent or deadly responses, particularly in communities of color.

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 is Parole.


"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.


Rob Sampson argues that a neighborhood’s well-being depends  on the conditions of neighborhoods that its residents visit and are visited by.


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.


New research by Sharad Goel analyzing driving data in 10 major US cities shows that speeding enforcement was more concentrated in non-White neighborhoods.


"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.


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.

News and Commentary

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

Investigating a ‘Windfall’ for Temp Agencies
NiemanReports, January 11, 2023
Featured: Sandra Susan Smith

A former judge’s call to eliminate mandatory-minimum sentencing laws
Times Union, January 8, 2023
Commentary by Nancy Gertner

More News and Commentary

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.

What is the cost of crime and punishment?

A new course, introduced at Harvard Kennedy School in fall 2022, had students evaluating the public and internal budgeting within the criminal legal system of four jurisdictions to look at the cost of crime and punishment to the taxpayer. The course asked students, in part, to determine whether the criminal legal system is effective enough to justify the costs, and to justify the harm that it perpetrates on the most marginalized people in society. Click here to read the full story.

Looking for a Harvard course on crime and punishment? The Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management compiles an annual course guide as an introduction to the wide variety of Harvard courses that may be relevant to students interested in criminal legal system reform and policy.  

Click here for an updated Spring 2023 course guide.

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. 

Join Our Mailing List
Sign up for our mailing list to receive updates on research and events.
Student Opportunities
Learn about courses, student research funding, the Criminal Justice PIC and other student opportunities.