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Tracey L. Meares, Law, Yale Law School

  • When: December 8, 2021, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: Zoom: To register, contact Sophie Kofman at

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Achieving Criminal Justice: A Civic Education Approach

Together with historian Benjamin Justice, I am working on a book-length treatment of an argument we advanced several years ago in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science entitled, “How the Criminal Justice System Educates Citizens.”  This book makes a big claim: that criminal legal processing in the United States functions as a vast and powerful civic education system. This education has several important characteristics: it is pervasive, extending across different institutions, regions, localities, jurisdictions, and demographics; it is quotidian, touching people in the small moments of their daily lives—when they drive to work, check their social media, or balance their checkbook; and it is unequal, offering distinctly different sets of lessons—indeed two a whole curricula--in what it means to be a citizen. Not only does this system of civic education interfere with other civic educational systems—most notably public schools­—but for many Americans it can have an impact on one’s future civic life. And importantly, it does all these things to people who are legally innocent. We analyze three important institutions: policing, detention and adjudication explaining how the overt and hidden curricula operate, and we suggest pathways of change through commitment to civic educational ideals.

Photo and Bio courtesy of Yale Law School

Tracey L. Meares is the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor and a Founding Director of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School. Before joining the faculty at Yale, she was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1995 to 2007, serving as Max Pam Professor and Director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice. She was the first African American woman to be granted tenure at both law schools.

Professor Meares is a nationally recognized expert on policing in urban communities. Her research focuses on understanding how members of the public think about their relationship(s) with legal authorities such as police, prosecutors and judges. She teaches courses on criminal procedure, criminal law, and policy and she has worked extensively with the federal government having served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Law and Justice, a National Research Council standing committee and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs Science Advisory Board.

In April 2019, Professor Meares was elected as a member to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In December 2014, President Obama named her as a member of his Task Force on 21st Century Policing. She has a B.S. in general engineering from the University of Illinois and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.

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