Most of us commit felonies on a regular basis without knowing it. Those accused of crimes often face an American judicial system rampant with prosecutorial discretion, overworked public defenders, and “trial penalties.” Mandatory minimums often hamstring judges, and “tough on crime” policies popular with voters encourage aggressive policing tactics and adversarial stances, especially toward our least privileged. 

“Unnecessary Evils: Laws, Judging, and Policing in an Overcriminalized World” will explore why (and how) there are too many criminal laws, and how this excess leads to perverse judicial and policing incentives.

The event will have a keynote address and three panels: 

(1) Why (and how) there are too many criminal laws: Prof. Douglas Husak (Rutgers University), Prof. Erik Luna (Arizona State University), Mr. Harvey Silverglate (Law Offices of Harvey Silverglate)

(2) The bad judicial incentives too many criminal laws make possible: Prof. Bryan McCannon (West Virginia University), Prof. Shon Hopwood (Georgetown University), Prof. Jelani Exum (University of Detroit Mercy)

(3) The bad policing incentives (1) and (2) make possible: Prof. Jake Monaghan (University of New Orleans), Prof. Ekow Yankah (Yeshiva University), Prof. Raff Donelson (Pennsylvania State University)

Up for discussion is how these matters perpetuate racism and other social ills, along with realistic ways to address these problems. 

Following the panels, there will be a breakout session where audience members will have the chance to discuss with speakers and fellow participants their own ideas and questions about the topic. One aim of the event is for participants to come away with fresh ideas for academic research or publicly facing work such as op-eds and popular journal articles, so please come ready to discuss your own thoughts at the breakouts.  

If you have research interests in questions surrounding this topic, we encourage you to apply for this opportunity. If invited, you will have the chance to explore challenges facing criminal justice reform. 


Friday, July 30
*All times are listed in Eastern Time
4:30 pm
Registration with Coffee
5:00 pm
Welcome and Opening Remarks
5:15 pm
Keynote Address
Prof. Rachel Harmon
6:15 pm
7:15 pm
Panel 1: “Why (and How) There are Too Many Criminal Laws”
Prof. Douglas Husak
Prof. Erik Luna
Mr. Harvey Silverglate
8:45 pm
Evening Social
Saturday, July 31
11:00 am
Coffee Service
11:30 am
Panel 2: “Judicial Incentives”
Prof. Bryan McCannon
Prof. Shon Hopwood
Prof. Jelani Exum
1:00 pm
2:00 pm
Panel 3: “Policing Incentives”
Prof. Jake Monaghan
Prof. Ekow Yankah
Prof. Raff Donelson
3:30 pm
Coffee Break
4:00 pm
Breakout Discussion Session
5:00 pm
Opportunities at the Institute for Humane Studies
5:15 pm
Cocktail Hour with Hors D'oeuvres


Pennsylvania State University – Dickinson Law

University of Detroit Mercy

University of Virginia

Georgetown University

Rutgers University

Arizona State University

West Virginia University

University of New Orleans

Law Offices of Harvey Silverglate

Yeshiva University