Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘william stuntz

William Stuntz, 1958-2011

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Sad news from Harvard Law:

William Stuntz, a renowned scholar of criminal justice at Harvard Law School, an evangelical Christian and a teacher much beloved by students and colleagues, died March 14 after a long battle with cancer. …

A year ago, in March 2010, a large group of his many admirers, including legal scholars, colleagues, friends, and students—“a simply dazzling array of conference participants,” as Dean Martha Minow said in opening remarks—gathered at HLS for a two-day conference, “A Celebration of the Career of Bill Stuntz.” …

Present at the conference, Stuntz described factors that had led to what he called the “disaster of criminal justice in our time,” in particular, the massive and “racially unfair” prison population in the U.S., but held out hope that the system might become fairer.

We can look forward to Stuntz’s two forthcoming books, including one from Harvard University Press on the collapse of the criminal justice system. At The Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr rounds up some links for readers interested in learning more about Stuntz’s legacy. Within the legal academy Stuntz was one of the most perceptive observers of the manifold failures of the criminal justice system, and he will be greatly missed.

Written by sara

March 16, 2011 at 7:03 am

William Stuntz on the Structural Causes of “Massive Over-Incarceration”

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Harvard Law School recently held a conference in celebration of criminal procedure scholar William J. Stuntz, which can be viewed in its entirety via webcast here. As many legal scholars around the web have noted (e.g. here), Stuntz’s work has been transformational in the field of criminal procedure, particularly in opening up new ways of thinking about how institutional arrangements and incentives may have driven the American criminal justice system in unintended directions and towards unintended extremes. All of Stuntz’s work is a must-read for anyone interested in criminal justice issues. But given the focus of this blog, I thought I’d highlight just one point — Stuntz’s hypothesis about the causes of over-incarceration. Here’s a summary from the Weekly Standard write-up of the conference:

At the end of the first session, Stuntz highlighted three problems he believes contribute to massive over-incarceration and which merit further study. First, he noted the vertical allocation of power between state legislatures and local governments, where the former define criminal laws but do not oversee their enforcement, allowing local prosecutors and police departments free rein to pursue their own goals. Second, the horizontal allocation of power between police and prosecutors, with prosecutors exercising more control over the number of people who go to jail, which has risen despite the fall of the urban arrest rate in the 1990s. And third, the increasingly statutory nature of criminal law, which has obscured the considerations of a defendant’s intent that once allowed for nuanced sentencing decisions under the common law, in favor of an increasingly strict liability system allowing less room for lesser punishments.

Written by sara

April 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

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