Harvard Law Students interested in criminal justice issues may draw on the resources of the Program of Study in Criminal Justice. The aim of the Program of Study, which is administered by CJPP, is to bring together, and provide guidance to, students interested in criminal justice, whether from a litigation, policy-making, or academic perspective (or some combination of perspectives). All students interested in this area, either in contemplation of an eventual career in criminal justice or as a subject of academic study, are encouraged to take a broad range of both lecture courses and seminars in criminal law and procedure as well as clinical offerings.

We particularly encourage students to seek to engage all perspectives on criminal justice and to learn about both the prosecution and defense functions in the justice process. Even if you already identify yourself as defense or prosecution oriented, law school is an opportunity to study and learn about all aspects of the criminal justice process. Regardless of where you end up, this broad study will make you a better lawyer.

For weekly updates about criminal justice-related events at and around Harvard Law School, sign up here to subscribe to “the Docket.”

Academic Offerings

2017-2018 Criminal Law & Procedure Course Offerings

Clinical Programs

Criminal Justice Institute

The Criminal Justice Institute is the curriculum-based criminal law clinical program of Harvard Law School. The mission of the Criminal Justice Institute is to educate Harvard Law School students in becoming effective, ethical and zealous criminal defense lawyer-advocates through practice in representing indigent individuals involved in the Massachusetts court system as well as to research and present issues and debates about the criminal and juvenile justice systems in order to affect local and national reform.

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Death Penalty Clinic

The Capital Punishment Clinic offers opportunities for students to represent clients with capital sentences through placements at law firms and capital punishment resource centers. Students work primarily at capital punishment resource centers in the southern United States, working on-site during the winter term and remotely in the spring.

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Government Lawyer: State Attorney General Clinic

This clinic is available in the fall, winter and spring terms. (Students may only participate for one term). The fall and spring State Attorney General Clinics offer students the opportunity to work with the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General‘s Office. Clinical student responsibilities include writing and research pertinent to the division in which they are placed. During winter term, students work in State Attorney General Offices around the country.

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Government Lawyer: United States Attorney Clinic

The Government Lawyer clinic allows students to examine firsthand the roles and responsibilities of a federal prosecutor. Students are placed at the United States Attorney’s Office in Boston. Work may include research, writing, witness preparation, working with evidence, and attending hearings.

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Prosecution Clinic

Clinical placements are in local District Attorneys’ offices, where students represent the Commonwealth, prosecuting non-jury criminal cases in district court. Students are likely to handle: arraignments; bail hearings; pre-trial conferences; motion hearings; and trials.

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Research & Learning Outside the Classroom

The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice

The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School (CHHIRJ) was launched in September 2005 by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law.  The Institute honors and continues the unfinished work of Charles Hamilton Houston, one of the 20th century’s most important legal scholars and litigators.

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The Criminal Justice Policy Program

The Criminal Justice Policy Porgram undertakes policy research and advocacy to advance criminal justice reform. Second- and third-year Harvard Law Students who enroll in the yearlong Criminal Justice Fellows Seminar work on the program’s policy initiatives. Other opportunities for students to participate in CJPP’s work are periodically announced on the program’s website and via “the Docket,” a weekly email update of criminal justice events at and around Harvard Law School.

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The Program in Criminal Justice and Policy Management

The Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ), located within the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), conducts research and sponsors activities to promote sound policy and effective management in the administration of safety and justice.

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Student Organizations

Child and Youth Advocates

Child and Youth Advocates (CYA) brings together students interested in a wide variety of children’s issues, including child welfare, juvenile justice, and education. We aim to heighten awareness and encourage discussion of these issues at HLS, facilitate student involvement with children and youth in Cambridge and Boston, and advocate for children’s rights in various contexts.

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Harvard Defenders

Harvard Defenders, a student practice organization at Harvard Law School, provides free representation to low-income defendants in criminal show-cause hearings before clerk-magistrates. Working to ensure defendants receive quality representation, we enrich students’ education and encourage them to become thoughtful, compassionate, and persuasive legal practitioners.

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The Harvard Immigration Project

The Harvard Immigration Project (HIP) is the largest student practice organization at Harvard Law School, and one of the only organizations that provide students, including first-year law students, the opportunity to serve immigrant communities with high-quality advocacy and gain practical, hands-on legal experience. Students have found the skills they learned through participation in HIP to be transferable in many different legal settings, and HIP is proud to play a significant role in fostering a strong pro bono culture in the Harvard Law School community.

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Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project

The Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) is a student practice organization in which students represent inmates in Massachusetts prisons. PLAP student attorneys argue at disciplinary hearings on behalf of prisoners charged with violating prison regulations. PLAP students also argue before the Massachusetts Parole Board for prisoners facing parole revocation or rescission and second degree life sentence hearings. In addition, PLAP  provides inmates with assistance in matters ranging from civil rights violations to confiscated property.

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ACLU-HLS

ACLU-HLS is a student-run organization. The chapter aims to advance and promote awareness of civil liberties and constitutional rights on the Harvard campus by hosting speakers and organizing events throughout the school year. In addition to focusing on core issues of freedom of speech and religion, racial justice, privacy, women’s rights, and LGBT rights, last year’s events also shined a spotlight on the ongoing civil rights and civil liberties violations occurring in connection to the war on terror.

ACLU-HLS also offers career opportunities for students who are considering working for the ACLU as a summer intern or as part of their legal career.  The organization works closely with the ACLU of Massachusetts and will host ACLU networking events throughout the year.  The group can be a great stepping-stone to an ACLU or civil rights job opportunity, or simply a way to learn more about civil rights issues and meet like-minded students.

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HLS Homelessness Coalition

The purpose of the Coalition is to engage HLS students in issues surrounding homelessness through community advocacy and volunteering with Y2Y Harvard Square. By supporting and supplementing the work Y2Y does by serving homeless youth, members of the Coalition will better understand the issues and needs of people experiencing homelessness, will be better equipped to advocate on behalf of those needs and will become a part of a movement for young adult drive solutions to homelessness.

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President Obama Grants Clemency to Three Federal Prison Inmates Represented Through CJPP’s Clemency Initiative
September 1, 2016Announcement, News

President Obama Grants Clemency to Three Federal Prison Inmates Represented Through CJPP’s Clemency Initiative

On August 30, 2016, President Obama granted clemency to 111 people including three individuals represented as part of the Criminal Justice Policy Program’s Clemency Initiative.

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A New Vision for the 21st Century Prosecutor: Reflections of Newly Elected Prosecutive Leaders
October 11, 2017News

A New Vision for the 21st Century Prosecutor: Reflections of Newly Elected Prosecutive Leaders

On September 25, 2017, CJPP and Fair and Just Prosectuion (FJP) hosted "A New Vision for the 21st Century Prosecutor" at Harvard Law School. Elected prosecutive leaders spoke at HLS with the next generation of lawyers about new paradigms in prosecution and the importance of prosecutors in bringing about systemic change.

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