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Tracey L. Meares to Discuss Reducing Violent Crime in Walton Hale Hamilton Inaugural Lecture

Tracey L. Meares will present her inaugural lecture as the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law on Monday, April 15, 2013. The lecture, titled “Smart, Tough and Fair: Reducing Violent Crime in 60 Minutes or Less,” will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Room 127. The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in the Alumni Reading Room.

The lecture will discuss a book project led by Meares and colleagues aimed at documenting and explaining efforts to address violent crime in several major cities across the country.

“Today, many if not most, understand that violence in cities is a geographically and demographically concentrated problem,” said Meares. “With that in mind, a typical approach to reducing violence focuses heavy-handed law enforcement on high-risk groups and areas without accounting for social psychological research that demonstrates when people are mostly likely to comply with the law.”

Those social psychological factors, explained Meares, include (a) when people believe in the substance of the law, (b) when they have positive interactions with law enforcement agents, and (c) when they perceive the procedures used in enforcing the law to be fair and just.

“We designed an intervention to communicate with high-risk offenders in a way that, hopefully, motivates them to comply with the law voluntarily, resulting not only in more lives saved, but also fewer lives lost to long prison sentences. In the lecture, I will explain the theory behind the intervention and also its diffusion. In the process, I hope to offer some thoughts regarding the ways in which I believe the theorizing behind the intervention has the potential to change the way criminal justice is conducted in this country,” said Meares.

Professor Meares joined the faculty of Yale Law School in 2007 as a Professor of Law. Prior to that, she was the Max Pam Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice at the University of Chicago Law School. Meares has held positions clerking for the Honorable Harlington Wood, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and as a trial attorney in the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice. In November of 2010, she was named by Attorney General Eric Holder to sit on the Department of Justice's newly-created Science Advisory Board. Additionally, she has served on two National Research Council Review Committees: one to review research on police policy and practices and another more recently to review the National Institute of Justice.

Meares' teaching and research interests focus on criminal procedure and criminal law policy. Meares has been especially interested as of late in teaching and writing about communities, police legitimacy and legal policy, and she has lectured on this topic extensively across the country to audiences of academics, lay people, and police professionals. She has a B.S. in general engineering from the University of Illinois and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.