I joined the Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) the fall of my 1L year at a time when I knew very little about the criminal justice system. I knew, however, that PLAP provided important services to prisoners in Massachusetts, including representing them in disciplinary hearings and in their bids for parole.
As staff attorney with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia for more than three years, Assistant Professor Andrew Manuel Crespo ’08 represented adults and juveniles charged with felonies ranging from armed robberies to homicides. Passionate about the work, he had no plans to become an academic. But early in his career, then-Dean Martha Minow engaged him in a life-changing conversation.
Assistant Professor Crystal Yang ’13, who joined the HLS faculty in 2014, brings an empirical focus to the study of criminal law. Yang, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, has in the past focused her empirical studies on criminal sentencing. She has now turned her attention to the extensive use of cash bail and pretrial detention in the U.S., in order to understand their short- and long-term consequences.
“I think criminal procedure is a very fundamental part of the constitutional law of democracy,” says Assistant Professor Daphna Renan, who writes about structural constitutional law, administrative law, and the Fourth Amendment. “When can the government use force against its own citizens? When can it search individuals, communities and communications? How do emergent technologies challenge existing legal frameworks? For anyone who cares about power and how law constrains and enables it, there are no more pressing questions than these.”
There are more than 2 million people imprisoned in the U.S. today. One hundred years from now, historians are likely to be fascinated by this carceral state: How did we get here? Are there better options for society? Some of the answers—or, at least, possible alternatives—may lie in an examination of medieval England. As a Harvard undergrad, Assistant Professor Elizabeth Papp Kamali ’07 fell in love with medieval legal history. After graduating from HLS, she got her Ph.D. in history at the University of Michigan, then joined the HLS faculty in 2015.