"Place, Race, and Variations in Federal Criminal Justice Practices"
Abstract: "Federal courts have arguably been subject to the most elaborate policy efforts to control “unwarranted” variations in criminal case outcomes across defendants and jurisdictions, in particular through the mandates and directives of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Nonetheless, district-level courts often develop and operate under their own norms and practices, resulting in very different kinds of justice outcomes depending upon local jurisdiction. In this talk, I examine the consequences of this disjuncture between national-level policy ideals and actual local-level practice in federal criminal justice by linking two distinct bodies of scholarship—the courts-as-communities scholarship that assesses locale-based variations and the socio-legal “law and organizations” scholarship that addresses how organizational actors translate and respond to top-down legal policy mandates. Drawing on findings from several recent empirical examinations, I illustrate the creative, locally varied ways that criminal law gets mobilized, including how those variations produce racial inequalities across jurisdictions. These findings suggest the limits of formal policy in being able to constrain the social processes and power relations that constitute criminal justice operations."
Dr. Mona Lynch is a Department Chair and Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and Law at the University of California, Irvine, where she is also co-director of the Center in Law, Society and Culture. Dr. Lynch’s research and writing focuses on the social, psychological, and cultural dynamics of contemporary criminal adjudication and punishment processes. Trained as a social psychologist, her research focuses on plea bargaining, criminal sentencing, and punishment, and on institutionalized forms of bias within criminal justice settings. She uses multiple methods in her research, ranging from qualitative field methods to experiments, to quantitative modeling. Her current major project, funded by National Science Foundation’s Law and Social Sciences program, uses a mock jury experimental paradigm to examine how racial bias gets activated and elaborated through group-level deliberations.
Her research has been published in a wide range of journals, law reviews, and edited volumes including American Journal of Criminal Law, British Journal of Criminology, Criminology and Public Policy; Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology; Law and Human Behavior; Law & Social Inquiry; Law and Society Review; Law and Policy; Punishment and Society; Miami Law Review; Michigan State Law Review; Studies in Law, Politics, and Society; and Theoretical Criminology. She is also the author of Sunbelt Justice: Arizona and the Transformation of American Punishment (2009), published with Stanford University Press and Hard Bargains: The Power to Punish in Federal Court (2016), with Russell Sage Foundation Press.
The event will be held at The Ohio State University Barrister Club, 25 West 11th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210. Doors will open at 3:30 and the lecture will begin at 4:00PM with a reception and cocktail hour to follow.