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Unintended: The Promises and Perils of Criminal Justice Reform

Tue, 2017-12-19 00:31 -- manager

Call for Papers


Unintended: The Promises and Perils of Criminal Justice Reform

Graduate Symposium

Law Engaged Graduate Students

March 16th, 2018 at Princeton University

In the last few years policymakers on both sides of the political aisle and across the country have turned their attention to criminal justice reform. Such reforms represents decades of work undertaken by activists, social scientists, and policy experts to respond to  the negative consequences of “tough on crime” legislation. Pointing to the devastating effects of mass incarceration and the disproportionate impacts of these policies on poor people and people of color, the huge cost of these programs on state and local budgets, and the way these policies have further frayed community and police relations, a consensus has emerged that the criminal justice policies of the past several decades have failed and that reform is needed. While this shift in policy priorities is to be lauded, a small but growing number of scholars raise the question of whether reform is enough. These critics wonder about the long term efficacy and potential “unintended” consequences of criminal justice reform, making the case that more drastic policy must be undertaken and that reform cannot begin and end with the criminal justice system. Inspired by these critiques, this symposium asks that we take a step back and examine this criminal justice reform closely, creating the space for dialogue and debate about the “unintended,” unforeseen, and unanticipated impacts of reform efforts.

Taking up the notion of “unintended” this symposium seeks to reposition it to ask a number of question that might provoke scholars, activists, and policymakers and provide the opportunity to explore  the multiple meanings and varied intentions that underlie the criminal justice reform movement. 1) what are some of the actual and potential unintended consequences of current criminal justice reform efforts? 2) how do we know such consequences are unintended? 3) are the emergence of particular “unintended” consequences to be understood as a surprise, as inherent to the task of policymaking, or can they be anticipated? If so, how? If not, why? And finally, 4) in what ways does an attention to the unintended consequences of reform point to the limitations of reform, and in what ways does it cue us to its openings and possibilities?

To encourage a diverse array of perspective we are calling on papers from graduate level scholars from across the social science disciplines (law, history, anthropology, sociology, economics, political science, criminology). We seek to foster interdisciplinary dialogue that draws attention to the multiple valences of criminal justice reform policy, their overlapping continuities, tensions, and blindspots, and in the end create a set of pathways for critically engaging and understanding reform efforts. This daylong symposium is a chance for new scholars to share their work, receive feedback and commentary, and develop a network of critical voices undertaking this tremendously important issue.

We ask that graduate scholars send a 250-word abstract of their paper no later than January 15th, 2018 to If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.