Our Research Agenda
On July 1, 2020, Sandra Susan Smith became the fourth Daniel & Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice and the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) Faculty Director, a position last held by Bruce Western.
The Program in Criminal Justice, now in its 40th year, had been somewhat dormant since Western’s departure three years ago. Still, its legacy is strong. Through its primary activities — action-oriented as well as traditional academic research; gatherings of an interdisciplinary group of faculty with broad interests in criminal justice issues; and, of course, the iconic Executive Sessions, where high-level practitioners, policymakers, and academics convene to engage in creative dialogue and problem-solving about seemingly intractable problems — PCJ has informed national debates, shaped public policy, and given birth to big ideas on a broad range of topics and issues, including policing and public safety, juvenile justice, youth violence and homicide, human rights, and community corrections.
Because of its reputation as an incubator and clearinghouse for innovative ideas, and despite its period of dormancy, PCJ is poised to contribute to policy debates on today’s pressing criminal justice issues and in a way that speaks to the possibilities of this truly transformational moment. Toward this end, Smith plans to reinvigorate the long-dormant Harvard Interfaculty Partnership on Crime and Justice (aka, “HIP on Crime”), engaging interested faculty across campus in regular meetings on issues of critical importance related to crime, punishment, and justice. Smith also plans to launch another Executive Session that focuses attention on perhaps the most urgent problem of the day — reimagining community safety. Future Sessions will address the issue of bail and pretrial detention and also mass criminalization. And, consistent with past efforts, Smith plans to convene a set of meetings that, like the Executive Session, will bring together practitioners, policymakers, and academics, but with a focus on reimagining and addressing pressing local issues. One PCJ Roundtable, as they will be called, is in development with a focus on the issue of public safety in Boston. PCJ Faculty Affiliate and Professor of Sociology, Christopher Winship, is co-leading the charge. Other Roundtables are in the offing.
There is perhaps one way that Smith hopes to engage differently than typical PCJ activities of the past, and that is by centering the voices of marginalized communities — community leaders and activists on the front lines of change — in discussions about ideas and policies that will affect their lives. With the exception of the Harvard Interfaculty Partnership, PCJ activities will always proceed with this key set of stakeholders.