Issa Kohler-Hausmann, "Managerial Justice: Criminal Courts in the Age of Mass Misdemeanors"

Monday, November 25, 2013 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Managerial Justice: Criminal Courts in the Age of Mass Misdemeanors

The processing of misdemeanor offenses in New York City’s lower criminal courts challenges our traditional understandings about the role of criminal law as a social control institution. Beginning in 1994, New York inaugurated its era of mass misdemeanors,adopting new policing tactics that dramatically increased arrests and citations for subfelony crimes. As lower courts were flooded with volumes of new cases from the city’s signature quality-of-life policing, the rate dismissals of misdemeanor cases increased substantially and the rate of criminal conviction markedly decreased. Rather than a failure of juridical punishment or the runoff from an overburdened system, these trends point to the operation of a distinct mode of criminal law administration in which courts manage and regulate populations over time with creative uses of new tools of criminal law and procedure instead of adjudicating guilt or innocence in a given case. The techniques dominant in the field of misdemeanor justice differ substantially from those familiar from the study of mass incarceration, and its operations extend to significant populations unseen in official criminal justice statistics. 

Issa Kohler-Hausmann is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at New York University and a Research Fellow at Georgetown Law Center. She received her B.A. from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000, MA in sociology from Northwestern in 2006 and JD from Yale Law School in 2008.