Carol S. Steiker: The Criminalization of Poverty


Monday, April 3, 2017, 12:00pm to 1:45pm


Harvard Kennedy School: Allison Dining Room

Carol S. SteikerHenry J. Friendly Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.

Carol SteikerPoverty and crime intersect in many unfortunate ways, and it has become common to refer to “the criminalization of poverty” to describe a range of pathologies in the criminal justice system. This talk will focus on perhaps the most unequivocal ways in which poverty is criminalized in the United States – the use of incarceration to enforce criminal justice debt and the system of money bail.

Both of these contexts involve the jailing of people simply because of their inability to pay to be released. There are now widespread and growing reform initiatives in both of these areas. These movements hold much promise but also present difficult policy problems, both of which will addressed in this seminar.

About the speaker

Carol Steiker is the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School. She specializes in the broad field of criminal justice, where her work ranges from substantive criminal law to criminal procedure to institutional design, with a special focus on issues related to capital punishment.

Recent publications address topics such as the relationship of criminal justice scholarship to law reform, the role of mercy in the institutions of criminal justice, and the likelihood of nationwide abolition of capital punishment. Her most recent book, Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, co-authored with her brother Jordan Steiker of the University of Texas School of Law, was published by Harvard University Press in November, 2016.

Professor Steiker is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she served as president of the Harvard Law Review, the second woman to hold that position in its then 99-year history. After clerking for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court, she worked as a staff attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she represented indigent defendants at all stages of the criminal process.

In addition to her scholarly work, Professor Steiker has worked on pro bono litigation projects on behalf of indigent criminal defendants, including death penalty cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. She also has served as a consultant and expert witness on issues of criminal justice for non-profit organizations and has testified before Congress and state legislatures.

See also
Death Throes: Changing how America thinks about capital punishment
Harvard Magazine (Nov-Dec 2016).

Learn more about Carol Steiker's work

Registration Closed
See also: Spring 2017