I thought in this post I’d talk about the research I do and how students can get involved with it. I work primarily in the field of sentencing and corrections—that is, the legal and policy issues that occur after the trial (or, more often, plea) is over and the judge pronounces the sentence. In many law schools, that’s treated as the equivalent of the fairy tale “happily ever after” moment—the stuff that happens after the main event that you need not concern yourself with. But it’s obvious (to me, at least), that what happens as a result of criminal trials and procedures is at least as important as the trials and procedures themselves. Indeed, it’s tough to say what the purpose of punishment is or how well it works without studying sentencing and corrections.
My research has me thinking about systems of corrections and the individual behaviors of people., and in doing this I look at some questions about law and social science, questions like to what extent does the law reflect our most up-to-date and accurate understanding of why people commit crimes and what might be done to stop them? What is mental illness and how does it relates to culpability? What are the sources of drug crime and how might the criminal justice system most effectively reduce it? Or, lately, what we might do, if marijuana is legalized, to minimize the social harms from that?
In addition to writing and researching, I also serve the Corrections Committee Co-Chair of the American Bar Association and speak frequently around the state (and nationally) about policy implications of my research.
I work frequently with student researchers, and find that it works best when I’m working with students who are motivated and self-starting. My Research Assistants work on a variety of subjects and produce memos, answer inmate correspondence, and even, in some cases, help me develop criminal justice policy proposals.