Watch. Listen. Learn. To create criminal legal reform networks, the Deason Center offers educational programs that build connections between students, stakeholders, researchers, policymakers, and impacted communities. The Center's programming includes free seminars, lectures, roundtables, and conferences.


Upcoming Events



Past Events

Research Innovation in Action: Rural Criminal Practice

Date: October 12, 2023

The Deason Center hosts Dr. Kevin Scott, interim director of the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, for a discussion with researchers and practitioners about gathering data in rural court systems. Dr. Scott will be joined by:

  • Kristen Staley, Executive Director of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission
  • Christian Mash, State’s Attorney for Garrett County, MD
  • Melissa Mackey, Research Director for the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services

The panel, moderated by Deason Center Research Director Dr. Andrew Davies, will discuss challenges and solutions when gathering data on courts, defense services, and prosecutors in rural jurisdictions.

This event is part of the Deason Center's STAR (Small, Tribal, and Rural) Justice Series. This series seeks to highlight an array of distinctive criminal justice issues affecting small, tribal, and rural areas across the United States.

Race, Place, and Over-Prosecution: The Impact of Residency on Case-Processing and Cumulative Disadvantage

Date: September 27, 2023

The over-policing of communities of color has been at the forefront of social and criminal justice reform movements in recent years. The desire to address policing in the U.S. is closely linked to the proliferation of officer-involved shootings of, and physical altercations with, Black men and women. Notably, less attention has been given to the over-prosecution of these groups.

While prosecutors have the ability to divert individuals away from justice system involvement, over-policing of some communities may have indirect effects on the likelihood of prosecution. Merely living in a particular zip code may increase an individual’s chances of criminal justice contact. Given the emphasis on efficiency in case processing, this may lead to compounded disadvantage for defendants, particularly for those from communities experiencing the greatest socioeconomic and structural deficits. 

This study examines the impact of residency on over-prosecution. Specifically, this project identifies sociocultural characteristics of over-prosecuted communities, clarifies offenses most commonly over-prosecuted, and explores whether policies can mitigate these issues, with particular attention given mitigation of non-violent drug and gun possession offenses.

"Inclusive Criminology" with Professor Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill, a Special Event in Collaboration with IDRA

Date: July 14, 2023

Inclusive criminology (“IC”) emphasizes comprehension through diversity and inclusivity in researchers' subject populations and contexts, theoretical perspectives, research questions, methodological techniques, and practical aims.

In this webinar, Professor Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill explains the IC approach, reviews its growing body of research, and provides examples of its use in theoretical and applied science. He connects IC to larger discourses on demographic and identity diversity and inclusion, including in empirical legal scholarship and indigent defense research. Finally, Professor Blount-Hill introduces epistemic justice as a moral and ethical basis for inclusive criminology.

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center and the Indigent Defense Research Association (IDRA) are collaborating to bring this special event.

Rethinking Rural Recidivism: System Navigation Problems and the Myth of the Revolving Door

Date: June 21, 2023

Presented by Dr. Jennifer Schwartz and Dr. Jennifer Sherman (Washington State University)

Mass incarceration has increasingly become a rural phenomenon. To learn more about the causes and consequences of rural incarceration, the authors conducted a mixed methods study across six counties in rural Washington State. Contrary to local perceptions that jails acted as “revolving doors” for drug addicts and serious felons, quantitative analyses of jail data (2015-2019) showed that a large proportion of jail stays were due to minor offenses like missed court dates, noncompliance with release conditions, unpaid fines, and/or offenses related to driving with a suspended license.

The authors dub this constellation of charges system navigation problems (SNPs), which were responsible for a plurality of pretrial incarcerations and jail re-entries. The authors argue that SNP charges work to criminalize rural poverty and marginality through both financial and non-financial means. This study highlights the importance of place-based dimensions of social inequalities, illustrating how rurality intersects with net-widening legal practices to contribute to jail use and mass incarceration.

Place-Based Advocacy and Judging in Rural Areas

Date: March 29, 2023

In the United States, rural economic marginalization and corresponding gaps in employment, affordable housing, health care, nutrition, and education put individuals at high risk for legal need. Yet many rural regions are “legal deserts” with few, if any, attorneys, and prevailing access to justice initiatives tend to neglect the unique challenges posed by rurality.

The efforts of rural tribal and state court judges, though often overlooked in scholarship and policy, offer a compelling response to this inequitable access to justice context. Building on emergent work on “active judging,” or when judges step away from a traditional passive role to assist unrepresented parties, Professor Statz explores how rural place and place attachments shape diverse judges’ interactions with litigants. It draws on mixed-methodological research across seven tribal and state courts in the upper Midwest to shed light on rural judges’ efforts, how these efforts are regarded by unrepresented parties, and to what extent a shared experience of rurality provides a meaningful form of “access.” In so doing, it offers a novel spatial intervention in scholarship on access to justice and active judging and contributes to more rurally relevant justice practices.

Professor Michele Statz is an anthropologist of law at the University of Minnesota who specializes in rural access to justice. Her current work examines how socio-spatial dimensions of rurality influence legal advocacy, rights mobilization, and individual and community health in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Myth of Individualized Prosecutorial Enforcement

Date: March 8, 2023

Although prosecutors wield immense discretionary power to determine how the justice system will respond to allegations of criminal activity, they have traditionally not faced meaningful scrutiny or accountability for how they exercise their discretion. Yet over the past several years, prosecutors and the roles they play in charging have become enmeshed in political controversy. Voters have elected dozens of prosecutors running on reformist platforms. And conventional prosecutors, of course, are fighting back.

Professor Murray calls one key idea in these debates the myth of individualized enforcement. That’s the idea that enforcement decisions have traditionally hinged on case-specific factors relating to the offense and the offender rather than categorical policies or criteria and, thus, are essentially apolitical. Professor Murray argues that this widely disseminated idea is mistaken.

Weeding out Racial Disparity: Dallas DA Declination Policies

Date: February 9, 2023

In 2019, District Attorney John Creuzot vowed to end the rampant racial disparity in marijuana enforcement. As a result, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office (Dallas DAO) issued policies designed to radically decrease police enforcement of misdemeanor marijuana possession laws. The authors review pre- and post-reform data about the number of marijuana misdemeanor cases that police submitted to the Dallas DAO for prosecution.


The authors conclude that the Dallas DAO’s policies were associated with a significant decrease in the number of marijuana misdemeanors referred by local police. However, those policies were not associated with a similar reduction in the degree of racial disparity among the cases submitted. Indeed, racial disparity in marijuana enforcement actually increased in some places.


Drawing on other research about prosecutorial charging discretion, the authors situate their findings in the context of other progressive prosecution initiatives and offer insights about the conditions necessary for success.

Compromising the Social Contract

Date: January 25, 2023

Professor Sean Hill is an Assistant Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. 

Professor Hill’s teaching and research lie at the intersection of critical race theory and criminal justice policy. His forthcoming publication in the UCLA Law Review specifically examines bail reform and pretrial risk assessment instruments through a critical race lens. Prior to joining OSU Moritz College of Law, Professor Hill was a Law Research Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center, where he led a seminar on the racial implications of algorithmic risk assessment.

Unwarranted Warrants: An Empirical Analysis of the Search and Seizure Process

Date: November 3, 2022

The Criminal Justice Reform Workshop "Unwarranted Warrants: An Empirical Analysis of the Search and Seizure Process" was hosted by the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center on November 3, 2022. The workshop was presented by Prof. Miguel de Figueiredo, Prof. Dane Thorley, and Prof. Brett Hashimoto.

Barred: Why the Innocent Can't Get Out of Prison

Date: October 25, 2022

"Barred: Why the Innocent Can't Get Out of Prison" was hosted by the Deason Criminal Justice Center and the SMU Dedman School of Law Office of Diversity and Inclusion on October 25, 2022, as a part of the "Doing the Work" series.

Diversifying the Pipeline in STAR (Small, Tribal, and Rural) Criminal Legal Deserts

Date: September 29, 2022

Our panel discusses strategies for recruiting diverse criminal legal practitioners to work in rural—and minoritized rural—criminal legal systems.

Special Policy & Advocacy Event: Solving the Initial Appearance Crisis

Date: September 15, 2022

Across the country, people are arrested and held behind bars for days, weeks — and sometimes months — before their initial appearance in court. These delays increase pretrial detention and postpone the appointment of counsel.

Our panel of experts review the Deason Center's pathbreaking initial appearance report cards and discuss the Center's campaign to solve the initial appearance crisis.

Breaking the Backbone of Unlimited Power

Date: September 8, 2022

Professor Zamir Ben-Dan, presents a follow-up to his article, Breaking the Backbone of Unlimited Power: The Case for Abolishing Absolute Immunity for Prosecutors in Civil Rights Lawsuits.

Professor Ben-Dan discusses whether prosecutors should have either qualified immunity or personal liability for prosecutorial misconduct. He will also suggest relevant standards of proof.

Registrants will be provided with a copy of the paper. 

Professor Zamir Ben-Dan is an Assistant Professor at the Temple University Beasley School of Law.

Zamir Ben-Dan joined the Temple Law faculty in the Fall of 2022. His research interests and emerging scholarship lie in the intersections of criminal law, race and the law, and American history.

Post-Pandemic Realities in STAR Jails

Date: July 21, 2022

Though bail reform advocates have long pressed for policies to help reduce lengthy pre-trial detentions, it was, arguably, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that finally moved the needle on jail reform policies.

With local jails becoming virus transmission hotspots, jail administrators and sheriffs across the nation had to make real-time decisions to limit pre-trial detention rates and reduce jail populations to curb transmission.  Many employed innovative reforms to address public health and safety concerns among pre-trial detainees and people in their communities.

Our expert panel will discuss jail administration policies and reforms implemented during the pandemic and the implications of maintaining these reforms in a post-pandemic future.

Unexceptional Protest

Date: July 14, 2022

Anti-protest legislation is billed as applying only in the extreme circumstances of large-scale civil disobedience. But these laws have alarming consequences that extend beyond mass protests. 


While existing critiques of anti-protest laws emphasize the chilling effects on protestor speech, those analyses mask the threat of these laws outside of mass protests. In fact, anti-protest laws have an impact on every day public order and the criminal regulation of Black, Latinx, and other targeted communities. 


Prof. Amber A. Baylor’s article examines the construction of mass protest law exceptionalism and advocates for better understanding the burdens and consequences borne by already vulnerable communities.

Conflicts of Interest and Judicial Ethics in Rural Criminal Law

Date: April 28, 2022

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center presents our STAR (Small, Tribal, and Rural) Justice Series. 

Professor Pamela Metzger leads a panel discussion of the judicial conflicts of interests that arise for judges presiding over criminal cases in small towns and rural areas. Panelists will identify issues that arise for judges and practitioners in criminal proceedings in STAR communities and explore approaches to addressing them.

The Appearance of Unfairness: Litigating Race in Criminal Trials

Date: March 10, 2022

Following the national reckoning and subsequent backlash concerning racial equity, and in the wake of the highly publicized Rittenhouse and McMichaels' trials, please join us and Attorney Johanna Jennings as she discusses the legal issues and implications for future legal proceedings arising out of the racialized rhetoric utilized in both trials and others like them.

Johanna Jennings is the Founder and Executive Director of The Decarceration Project, a nonprofit dedicated to mitigating the decades-long trend of inequitable and inhumane mass incarceration. In that role, she engages in projects to alleviate systemic racial inequity, represents individuals directly in strategic litigation, and advocates for policies to reduce mass incarceration.

Pretrial Justice in Out-of-the-way Places

Date: March 03, 2022

Professor Jordan Gross and Dr. Laura Kirsch supervise the Rural Justice Initiative (RJI) at the University of Montana. In Fall 2021, in collaboration with the Montana Court Administrator’s Office, RJI surveyed Montana judges about their bail and pretrial decision-making practices and procedures. Follow-up interviews will explore the unique challenges and opportunities that rural communities face in the administration of pretrial justice and the implementation of bail reform initiatives.

Access to Justice for People of Color in STAR Spaces

Date: February 24, 2022

Professor Maybell Romero leads a panel discussion about the experiences of Black, Native, Latinx, Asian, and other people of color in small, tribal, and rural (STAR) criminal legal systmes. Panelists address the issues that confront justice-involved people in rural and small-town communities of color.