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Renowned Criminologist Joan Petersilia Joins Stanford Law School Faculty

Publication Date: 
March 04, 2009
Stanford Law School

STANFORD, Calif., March 3, 2009—Stanford Law School today announced the appointment of preeminent criminologist Joan Petersilia as Professor of Law. Petersilia has spent more than 25 years studying the performance of U.S. criminal justice agencies and has been instrumental in affecting prison and parole reform in California and throughout the U.S. Petersilia currently serves as Professor of Criminology, Law and Society in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine, where she directs the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections.

Petersilia is the author of eight books about corrections public policy, and her research on parole reform, prisoner reintegration and sentencing policy has fueled the overhaul of California’s corrections system. As a special advisor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger since 2003, she helped reorganize juvenile and adult corrections, established a new Office of Research and an Office of Policy and Planning, and worked with the California Legislature to implement prison and parole reform.

“Joan’s influence on public policy when it comes to corrections, sentencing and juvenile justice is unmatched,” said Larry Kramer, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean. “Her appointment to our faculty reaffirms Stanford Law School’s ever-expanding commitment to empirical research methods and criminal justice law and policy.”

A criminologist with a background in empirical research and social science, Petersilia will also serve as faculty co-director for the Stanford Criminal Justice Center (SCJC). She will help SCJC assess policies related to crime control, sentencing, and corrections, and develop nonpartisan analyses and recommendations intended to aid public officials, legal practitioners, and the public in understanding criminal justice policy at the state and national levels.

“As an acknowledged leading expert on sentencing and corrections reform, Joan brings an incomparable understanding of sentencing and corrections policy, which is rapidly becoming one of the most salient topics in the U.S. criminal justice system,” said Robert Weisberg, Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center.

“Her appointment signals a commitment by the law school to address the nation’s most pressing problems from an interdisciplinary perspective,” added Kara Dansky, executive director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center and a lecturer at the Law School.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to work with the students and faculty at the law school,” said Petersilia, who will teach crime and public policy, sentencing and corrections, and juvenile justice. “Stanford Law School is at the forefront of interdisciplinary research and the SCJC has established itself in a few short years as a nationally recognized leader in criminal justice studies.”

Petersilia previously served as director of the Criminal Justice Program at RAND Corporation, a leading social science think tank, and as president of the American Society of Criminology, a renowned international association concerned with the study of crime. She holds a doctorate (1990) in Criminology, Law & Society, from the University of California, Irvine.

Petersilia is the former director of the National Research Council’s study on Crime Victims with Disabilities and former director of the California Policy Research Center’s study on Criminal Offenders with Developmental Disabilities. She served as a visiting professor at Stanford Law School from 2005 to 2006. In addition to a PhD in criminology, she holds a BA (1972) in sociology from Loyola University of Los Angeles and an MA (1974) in sociology from Ohio State University.

About the Stanford Criminal Justice Center

The Stanford Criminal Justice Center serves as Stanford’s vehicle for promoting and coordinating the study of criminal law and the criminal justice system, including legal and interdisciplinary research, policy analysis, curriculum development, and preparation of law students for careers in criminal law. SCJC’s areas of interest include criminal trial practice and procedure, institutional examination of the police and correctional systems, social science study of the origins of criminal behavior and methods of punishment, and criminal legislation and enforcement in areas ranging from drug crimes to federal white collar crimes.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, and write books and articles for academic audiences, as well as the popular press. Along with offering traditional law school classes, the school has embraced new subjects and new ways of teaching.


Media Contact

Tayla Klein
Assistant Director of Communications
Stanford Law School
650 725.7516