Institute to host spring speaker series on criminal justice reform
The St. Olaf College Institute for Freedom and Community will host five events this spring featuring speakers on the theme of “The Challenge of Criminal Justice Reform in America.”
The events, which will all take place on the St. Olaf campus, are free and open to the public. Several of the events will also be live streamed. Registration is not required but is highly encouraged.
“The Institute is eager to sponsor this important conversation,” says St. Olaf Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Chapp, the Morrison Family Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community. “This speaker series comes at a time when our country is struggling with big questions about crime and criminal justice, and we are pleased that we can help our students navigate different perspectives on reform.”
The spring series will kick off February 27 with Mirya Holman on “The Power of the Badge: Sheriffs and Inequality in Criminal Justice in the United States.” The event will begin at 6 p.m. in Viking Theater, and will be streamed live and archived online. Holman, an associate professor of political science at Tulane University, is an expert on gender and politics, local leadership, urban politics, and political behavior. She is the author of Women in Politics in the American City, which focuses on the impact of female mayors and city council members on local politics.
On March 22 the Institute will host two speakers whose work brings innovative solutions to the problem of violent crime in the United States. Monica Bhatt, the senior research director at the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab, has led several studies aimed at reducing violent crime, including the READI Chicago initiative aimed at reducing gun violence. Max Kapustin, an economist at Cornell University, examines interventions aimed at improving the life outcomes of disadvantaged youth and adults, as well as how police management quality affects outcomes like violent crime and police use of force. The event, titled “The Promise of Community Violence Interventions and Policing Reform to Reduce Gun Violence in American Cities,” will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Viking Theater.
The speaker series continues April 17 with Alex Albright, a research economist with the Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Albright’s work focuses on the connection between law and economics, including bail reform policies, and the use of algorithmic tools in the justice system. The conversation will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Holland Hall 523.
On April 19, Emily Baxter and Antonio Williams will present “We Are All Criminals: Ownership and Obligation in Reform.” Baxter is the executive director and developer of We Are All Criminals, a St. Paul-based nonprofit organization focused on “challenging society’s perceptions of what it means to be criminal” and is the author of a book by the same title. Williams is a community advocate with We Are All Criminals. The presentation will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Regents Hall 150.
The series concludes May 2 with Crystal Yang presenting on “Racial Disparities and Criminal Justice.” Yang is the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, where she is co-director of the Crime Working Group. Her research centers around law and economics. Her talk, which is co-sponsored by the Husby-Johnson Endowed Chair of Business and Economics, will begin at 6 p.m. in Viking Theater.
Established at St. Olaf in 2014, the Institute for Freedom and Community encourages free inquiry and meaningful debate of important political and social issues among students, faculty, and the general public. The Institute sponsors a range of programming opportunities, in addition to the lecture series, to further cultivate civil discourse within the context of the liberal arts.
“I am grateful for our faculty partners from across the college,” Chapp says. “The panel developed because an interdisciplinary group of faculty were tackling these issues in the classroom this spring, and the Institute is happy to be able to support teaching through our spring programming.”