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Robina Institute Workshop to Examine Scope, Limits of Preventive Justice

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012—David Wippman, dean of the University of Minnesota Law School, announced today that the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice will put on a workshop, "Preventive Justice," September 21-22 in the Law School.

The workshop will bring together legal scholars from around the world to discuss when and why the state may be justified in using coercive measures not to punish people for crimes they’ve already committed, but to prevent them from committing crimes in the future. It will focus on the recent research of Professors Andrew Ashworth and Lucia Zedner of Oxford University, who are directing a three-year preventive justice project sponsored by the U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Ashworth will spend a week in the Law School in September as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Robina Institute.

"Scholarly discussion of the state's use of its coercive penal powers often focuses on the justification for using such powers to punish people for the wrongs they have committed," said Antony Duff, a director of the Robina Institute. "Less attention has been paid to the use of such powers to coerce people to prevent them from committing crimes that they are thought likely to commit in the future. We’re delighted to welcome an exciting group of legal scholars to discuss and build on Professors Ashworth and Zedner's work in developing a better understanding of the problems raised by such preventive measures, and of whether, when and how they can be justified."

In addition to Ashworth and Zedner, presenters in the workshop are Professors David Cole and Allegra McLeod of Georgetown University; Kim Ferzan of Rutgers-Camden; Stuart Green of Rutgers-Newark; Susan Dimock of York University in Toronto; and Oren Gross of the University of Minnesota.

"There are good reasons to justify the state in authorizing the use of coercion to protect the public from harm," Ashworth and Zedner said. "But recent years have seen a proliferation of preventive measures that alter the boundaries of criminal liability and blur the traditional division between the criminal and civil law. These new measures allow the civil law to be used for criminal law purposes but without the protections normally provided to defendants." This project is intended "to develop a set of principles and values that can provide a framework for all forms of coercive preventive measures."

The Robina Institute, supported by a major long-term grant from the Robina Foundation, works with policy-makers, practitioners and a wide range of leading scholars to improve criminal justice systems that are widely recognized to be ineffective, overly costly, overly severe, and insufficiently attentive to the needs and interests of victims. The Institute engages in interdisciplinary, policy-oriented study of the criminal justice system.

The Minneapolis-based Robina Foundation was established by James H. Binger, a St. Paul native and 1941 graduate of the Minnesota Law School, shortly before his death in 2004. In creating the Foundation, Binger charged it to support projects with potential to transform existing institutions, policies and practices. The Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice aims to participate in the work of creating criminal justice systems fit for the 21st century and for the citizens of a contemporary democracy.

Duff and Michael Tonry are co-directors of the Robina Institute; Michael Smith is the executive director. Duff, who joined the Law School in 2010, is one of the world’s preeminent philosophers of the criminal law and punishment. Tonry, who came to the Law School in 1990, is one of the world’s leading experts on criminal justice policy. Smith is a former director of the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City, the nation's leading criminal justice reform agency.

The Institute focuses its work on three core, interrelated program areas: criminal law theory, headed by Duff; criminal justice policy, led by Tonry; and sentencing law and policy, led by professors Richard Frase and Kevin Reitz. Working closely with practitioners and policy-makers from Minnesota and elsewhere, projects in the three areas focus on documenting problems and developing achievable, cost-effective, just solutions.

For more information about the Robina Institute for Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, please contact David Hanbury, Robina Institute administrator, at 612-625-8093 or dhanbury@umn.edu.


Robina Institute