The Impact of a Strict Criminal Justice Administration

The Impact of a Strict Criminal Justice Administration

Heather SchoenfeldHeather Schoenfeld

In the wake of a potentially new “law and order” administration, criminal justice reform advocates must “create strong counter-narratives and messaging that stress ineffectiveness of current policies, the human right to dignity, and parsimony,” Northwestern University sociologist Heather Schoenfeld recently wrote in an essay in The Hill.

“Further, we must support investigative reporting and social science research that follows the process of criminal justice reform in order to document what works to change the culture in the places where it matters most,” she wrote.

Schoenfeld, assistant professor of legal studies and human development and social policy, is one of three Public Voices Fellows from Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. She also is a faculty associate at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research.

A leading scholar on criminal punishment systems, Schoenfeld believes punitive law and order rhetoric will “undermine the very necessary efforts to change criminal justice system culture.”

She wrote: “Even if reformers can convince legislators, governors and city officials to embrace reform policies, front line staff -- police officers, assistant district attorneys, probation officers and prison guards -- will have to implement them.”

Schoenfeld is a sociologist of law who studies the intersection of politics, policy, race and the law. Her work explores the rise of U.S. mass incarceration, focusing on states' criminal justice policies and practices.

She is the co-author of the first historical comparative analysis of punishment and politics across eight American states between 1960 and 2001. The article, “The Transformation of America's Penal Order: A Historicized Political Sociology of Punishment" (with Michael Campbell), received the Distinguished Article Award from the American Sociological Association Sociology of Law Section and an honorable mention for the 2014 Law and Society Association Article Award.

Read Schoenfeld’s full essay “Reforming criminal justice: the impact of a law and order administration” in The Hill.

Learn more about the School of Education and Social Policy’s Human Development and Social Policy doctoral program.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 3/3/17