Criminal Justice Practice and Policy Institute

In collaboration with the criminal law faculty, the Criminal Justice Practice and Policy Institute ("the Institute") was founded by Professor Andrew E. Taslitz in 2013 to improve the practice of criminal law through scholarship and engagement in legal and policy reform, and ensure that students seeking to pursue a career in criminal law receive the practical skills and training needed to launch their careers. Through the expertise and professional experience of the full time and adjunct faculty, the work of the Institute covers white collar crime, international crime, national security, public defense, prosecution, criminal justice policy, and many other areas of criminal law specialization. The Institute also coordinates with the other highly successful programs at the Washington College of Law, including the Weinstein Trial Advocacy Program, the War Crimes Research Office, the Criminal Justice Clinic, and the Prison Rape Elimination Project.

Preparation to Practice

Students meeting with area employers at the
annual Criminal Law Externship Fair.
The Institute collaborates with other members of the criminal law faculty through the Criminal Law Faculty Practice Group to provide career and professional development opportunities to aspiring criminal law practitioners. Over 250 students have joined the Criminal Law Faculty Practice Group and routinely receive valuable information about jobs, externships, Institute programs and other professional development opportunities. The Institute maintains a comprehensive Criminal Justice Employment Resource Book with information on jobs, externships and alumni connections. Beginning with the inaugural conference in October 2013, the Institute has regularly sponsored or co-sponsored professional development programs to help our students launch their criminal law careers. The Institute also utilizes our broad network of alumni who practice criminal law. Through our Criminal Law Alumni Listserv and our interactive Alumni Network Map, the Institute is able to provide professional resources to our alums and enable students to connect with alumni to gain valuable insight regarding criminal law practice in jurisdictions all across the country.

The Institute's inaugural conference included a discussion of "Criminal Justice Reform in the Obama Era" with Prof. & Maryland State Senator Jamin Raskin; Cara Sullivan of the American Legislative Exchange Council ALEC; Vanita Gupta, then-Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union; Joe Johns (WCL 2000), the program moderator and CNN correspondent; Julie Stewart of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM); Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project; and Paul Larkin from the Heritage Foundation.

Criminal Justice Reform Programs

Activist Rabia Chaudry discusses the Serial podcast and the case of Adnan Sayed with Prof. Amy Tenney.
The Institute has offered an array of provocative programs on contemporary issues in criminal justice that bring together police officers, prosecutors, public defenders, criminal justice policymakers, criminal defendants, legal scholars and community activists to discuss and debate ways to improve our criminal justice system. Recent Institute programs have addressed the national crisis in indigent defense representation, the legal case against George Zimmerman, the public outcry over police shootings of unarmed African American men, the landmark New York City stop and frisk case, the ongoing problem with racial and ethnic profiling, and the nationally-popular Serial podcast on the Adnan Syed conviction. The Institute will continue to offer outstanding programs and presentations that bring together diverse groups to discuss issues and craft solutions to common problems that plague the criminal justice system.

From Classroom to Courtroom

Professors Miller, Roberts and Jones congratulate Campbell Roth on the launch of her career as a public defender in New York through Gideon's Promise.
In each of the past two years, nearly 30 WCL graduates have become criminal practitioners at local, national and international government agencies and organizations. Recent WCL graduates have accepted employment at the Department of Justice National Security Division, New Hampshire Public Defender, National Juvenile Defender Center, and many New York, Maryland and Florida prosecutor and public defender offices. Six of our graduates have joined Gideon's Promise and will work in public defender offices in Louisiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Through our JD Distinguished Graduate Fellowship Program, recent graduates have secured career opportunities in many locations, including the International Criminal Court, Kids In Need Of Defense, and the Prison Law Office.

The Governing Directors

The Institute is governed by five co-directors--Professors Jennifer Daskal, Angela J. Davis, Cynthia Jones, Ira Robbins and Jenny Roberts--all of whom are actively engaged in criminal justice reform initiatives and work with a wide variety of local and national organizations, including the Sentencing Project, the Innocence Project, the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Vera Institute, the Pretrial Justice Institute, Human Rights First, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, and the American Constitution Society. In 2014, the Public Welfare Foundation awarded a $75,000 grant to the Institute which allowed Professor Cynthia Jones to launch the Pretrial Racial Justice Initiative, a project to address racial disparities in bail determinations by fostering greater collaboration among national civil rights groups and the bail reform movement. In addition, the Institute Directors have garnered national attention for their legal scholarship which focuses on a range of issues at the initial stages of the criminal adjudication process, including plea bargaining, bail reform, criminal discovery reform, and critical issues on the back-end of the criminal adjudication process including sentencing, post-conviction remedies, prisoners' rights, collateral consequences of criminal convictions and wrongful convictions, to the full gamut of systemic issues that impact the entirety of the criminal adjudication process, including prosecutorial discretion, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, the right to counsel, the role of the public defender, technology and the Fourth Amendment, the constitutionality of military commissions, terrorism prosecutions, and national security. The Institute also hosts an annual gathering of the criminal law scholars from every law school in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for a discussion of criminal justice reform research and scholarship.