Formally started in 2020-21, The Justice Lab Program seeks to pair the theoretical study of the legal system with the practical application of these concepts to dynamic, real world issues. The first iteration of this program, The Law & Justice Lab, focused on the criminal justice system, specifically bail reform in New York State. Future programs may include a focus on health, immigration, and poverty.

For Faculty interested in developing courses as part of this program, please email Professor Frank Anechiarico.

Previous Courses & Initiatives

GOVT 295: Practicum: Crafting Criminal Justice Reform in Response to Black Lives Matter (Fall 2020)

This half-course credit practicum involves students directly in the process of law enforcement and criminal justice reform. This fall, students will deploy and analyze the results of a survey of residents of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, canvas community organizations, and present proposals for best-practice demonstration projects aimed at reforming the criminal justice system in the interest of racial justice. Students will share their findings with local public officials and community groups to help them deliver on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order to produce plans for reform, inclusion, and racial equity.

GOVT 273/274: Law & Justice Lab (Spring 2020)

The Law and Justice Lab is an innovative course format that links two full-credit courses: a traditional seminar and a “laboratory” component that includes both an internship and court observations. The theme of the Lab this past year was the Oneida County Criminal Justice System and the effects of two 2019 reforms in the law by the NYS legislature: the abolition of cash bail for most offenses and an accelerated and expanded evidence discovery process, both of which took effect in January, 2020. These reforms gave Lab students the opportunity to observe and participate in the implementation of significant changes in criminal procedure.

Student Research: Report on the Criminal Justice System Treatment of the Mentally Ill

In partnership with Professor Frank Anechiarico and Utica City Court Judge Ralph Eannace and funded by a Levitt Center Public Philosophy Grant, students completed an independent study detailing the interactions among law enforcement, the courts, and people with mental health issues in Oneida County as well as potential alternatives to the current approach.

Public Opinion Polls: Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Reform Survey

Students deployed and analyzed a survey of residents of Herkimer and Oneida counties to understand perceptions of law enforcement and racial justice topics. The survey was conducted by a professional polling firm, Zogby Analytics, and funded by the Levitt Center. The results of this survey will be made available to local political leaders as they respond to NY Governor Cuomo’s executive order requiring policing reforms by April 1, 2021.

Speaker Series: Community-College Partnership for Racial and Criminal Justice Reform

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement, the Community-College Partnership for Racial and Criminal Justice Reform brings together academic, legal, and community leaders throughout the Mohawk Valley to discuss these pressing issues. It’s part of a larger initiative, also led by Anechiarico, that brings together the campus and community to potentially foster local reform. The series includes an eight-part webinar series hosted by a local six college partnership on criminal justice reform that is open to the public.

Affiliated Programs and Projects

Jurisprudence, Law and Justice Studies

Jurisprudence, law and justice studies is a minor with coursework that provides students with a foundation for understanding how the theory, practice and meaning of law stimulates civic engagement.

American Prison Writing Archive

The American Prison Writing Archive (APWA) is a place where imprisoned people and prison staff can write about and document their experience. It is a site where all who live or work inside can bear witness to what is working and what is not inside American prisons, thus grounding public debate about the American prison crisis in lived experience. In 2017, Professor Doran Larson was awarded $262,000 by the National Endowment of the Humanities for APWA. The three-year grant will enable the APWA to double the size of the archive and increase its search capacities.

banner - Crafting Criminal Justice Reform

Webinar Series

The webinar series covers Black Lives Matter, police use of force, the treatment of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system, domestic violence, and other issues relevant to effective reform.


Office / Department Name

Levitt Center

Contact Name

Christina Willemsen

Administrative Director

Office Location
Kirner-Johnson 251

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