Sandra Smith

Professor, Harvard University

After 16 years in the Department of Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley, Sandra Susan Smith will join the faculty at Harvard University as Daniel & Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, the Director of the Program on Criminal Justice, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute. Primarily a qualitative researcher, Smith has a longstanding interest in questions of urban poverty and joblessness, social capital and social networks, job search, racial inequality, and trust. Her first book, Lone Pursuit: Distrust and Defensive Individualism among the Black Poor (Russell Sage Foundation) and her forthcoming book, Cultural Logics of Job-Matching Assistance (also likely with RSF), both seek to make sense of the conditions that facilitate social capital mobilization for job-finding. Smith’s interests have recently expanded, however, to include criminal justice issues, with special attention to the front-end of criminal case processing, a direct result of membership in the Executive Session on Community Corrections at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Smith’s recent work considers the extent to which and how institutional arrangements related to the front end of penal contact contribute to the reproduction of racial and class inequalities. With a generous grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, she has recently wrapped up data collection for a large, four-city qualitative study of the front end of criminal case processing, with a focus on how pretrial detention and diversion affect justice-involved individuals’ future involvement with crime. In addition to her books, Smith’s research on this and related topics has also been published in a number of peer-reviewed journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the Annual Review of Sociology, Criminal Justice Policy Review, The DuBois Review, Racial and Ethnic Studies, Social Science Research, Social Problems, The Sociological Quarterly, and Work and Occupations. Along with Jonathan Simon, Smith co-edited the March 2020 issue of the RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. The issue highlights eight terrific empirical studies by scholars from various disciplines that examine the criminal justice system as a labor market institution.

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