The Yale Law Journal


Critical Voices on Criminal Justice: Essays from Directly Affected Authors

People who have experienced incarceration have unique insights into the criminal system—insights that are often missing from legal scholarship and criminal justice policy. This Collection begins to bridge that gap.


What Break Do Children Deserve? Juveniles, Crime, and Justice Kennedy’s Influence on the Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence

Reginald Dwayne Betts

Many read Justice Kennedy’s landmark Eighth Amendment sentencing cases to herald a fundamental change in how juveniles are treated in the criminal justice system. But the better reading is more modest. Instead, they force us to ask what it means to say that youth is relevant to the determination of …


Transcending the Stigma of a Criminal Record: A Proposal to Reform State Bar Character and Fitness Evaluations

Tarra Simmons

This Essay is rooted in the author’s experience as a formerly justice-involved individual who overcame numerous barriers to become an attorney and advocate. It argues that bar associations should use a conditional-approval process that informs applicants whether the bar intends to admit them before …


Ending the Incarceration of Women and Girls

Andrea James

Drawing on the author’s experience as a formerly incarcerated mother and advocate, this Essay challenges the reader to consider whether incarceration generally—and incarceration of women and girls specifically—is a fundamentally misguided response to violence and poverty that we must retire.


The Effort to Reform the Federal Criminal Justice System

Shon Hopwood

This Essay describes the difficult process of federal criminal justice reform and how the reform community’s efforts led to passage of the First Step Act. It also explains what risks could stall future reforms and discusses the criteria advocates should use in deciding whether to support future refo…