As the new academic year begins at the University of Minnesota, the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice is continuing our work in sentencing law and criminal justice policy. By connecting research, education, and theory with practice the Robina Institute strives to make transformative changes in the field of criminal justice. Because we are committed to connecting research with practice, the Institute’s work is often interdisciplinary—intersecting the fields of criminal justice policy and law, with sociology, social work, criminology, philosophy, psychology, medicine, and many other disciplines. To support interdisciplinary research of this nature, the Institute has developed opportunities for research scholars and post-doctoral fellows to join us in our efforts, sharing and building on their own expertise in community corrections, comparative criminal justice research, sentencing law, philosophy, and criminology.
To that end, we are excited to welcome Dr. Julia Laskorunsky and Dr. Erin Harbinson as our newest Post-Doctoral Fellows, but we also want to take a moment to recognize the contributions of scholars who are leaving the Institute for new opportunities.
Farewell to Ebony Ruhland and Alessandro Corda
Saying goodbye to two outstanding researchers and scholars like Ebony Ruhland and Alessandro Corda is not easy. Their many contributions to the Robina Institute will be greatly missed. But, as they both take the next step in their careers as assistant professors at world-class institutions, we are very proud of their accomplishments.
Dr. Ebony Ruhland has accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. She was the Robina Institute’s Research Director for the Probation Revocation Project and the Parole Release and Revocation Project from 2014 through 2017. While at the Institute, she led the research team and developed research methods and models that examined probation and parole practices and reasons for revocations in rural and urban jurisdictions. By collaborating with probation agencies, Dr. Ruhland was able to conduct in-depth interviews with probationers, probation officers and managers, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, and other stakeholders in the Alpha Phase of the Probation Revocation Project. The qualitative research Dr. Ruhland led provided a critical piece to forming a complete picture of probation practices in these jurisdictions. She also led research on the Parole Release and Revocation Project and was instrumental in designing and disseminating a national survey of parole boards to gain a comprehensive view of parole release decision-making in the United States. While at the Institute, she authored numerous reports and was asked to present the findings of this research in front of judges, county attorneys, probation officers, parole boards, academic and practitioner conferences for professional probation and parole officers, and other criminal justice stakeholders.
One of the Robina Institute’s first jurisdictional partnerships was with Bell and Lampass Counties Community Supervision and Corrections Department in Texas. Dr. Ruhland and other members of the research team flew to Texas several times to conduct interviews and collect data about probation revocation in those counties. Working closely with the department director, Todd Jermstad and other staff, Dr. Ruhland also conducted research about the use of fees in four Texas counties and interviewed incarcerated individuals whose probation had been revoked.
Todd Jermstad, Director Bell and Lampass Counties, Texas, Community Supervision and Corrections Department writes:
“When I agreed for our department to be a research subject for the Robina Institute, I was not sure what we were getting into. However, working with Ebony has been a joy. Not only is she knowledgeable about research and has a passion for what she is doing, she is also patient and understanding with those of us who know less about academic research and are not used to outsiders asking us a lot of questions about what we are doing. Our staff still asks about Ebony and thinks the world of her. I am very happy about her career choice, but I too will miss her.”
Professor Ruhland received her Ph.D. from the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota and her M.A. from St. Mary’s University. Previously, she was the Research Director for the Council on Crime and Justice, a nonprofit agency specializing in criminal justice research, policy, and direct service. Her research interests include examining how individuals, families, and communities are impacted by crime and the criminal justice system.
You can read more about Professor Ruhland’s research and publications, here. She will continue to collaborate with the Robina Institute on the Probation Revocation and Parole Release and Revocation Projects.
Dr. Alessandro Corda has joined the faculty as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at Queen's University, Belfast School of Law in the United Kingdom. He was Robina Institute Fellow in Comparative and Cross-National Justice System Studies from 2014-2017.
While at the Robina Institute, Professor Corda focused his work on policies and practices regarding the front-end and the back-end of the criminal justice system in the U.S. and other Western jurisdictions. His primary research interests include criminal law and procedure, sentencing, comparative criminal justice and penal policy, sociology of punishment, criminal law theory, white-collar and corporate crime, and the impact of neuroscience on the administration of criminal law. Prior to joining the Robina Institute, Professor Corda was a Visiting Researcher at Yale Law School and a Research Scholar at the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at NYU School of Law.
During his time spent at the University of Minnesota Law School, Professor Corda published several articles and worked closely with faculty members, including Professor Michael Tonry and Professor Kevin Reitz on several publications and presentations.
From University of Minnesota Law School Professor Michael Tonry:
“Alessandro's high standards, creativity, and cosmopolitan air have inspired us all. As he leaves Minneapolis to continue a no doubt glorious career, some might now describe him as a Robina Fellow. Not too many years from now the senior Robina folk may be best known for having once been protégés of Alessandro Corda.”
Professor Corda holds a J.D. summa cum laude from the University of Pavia School of Law (Italy), a Ph.D. in Law from the University of Pavia (completing a dissertation on the changes in sentencing laws and practices regarding antitrust offenses over time in four jurisdictions), and an LL.M. from NYU School of Law, where he was a recipient of the prestigious Hauser Global Scholarship. His work has been published (or is forthcoming) in leading law and criminal justice journals and book projects.
Read more about Professor Corda’s research and publications, here.
The staff and faculty of the Robina Institute are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Professor Ruhland and Professor Corda and we wish them both continued success as they begin this next phase of their already accomplished careers.
Robina Fellows and Scholars
In addition to Professor Ruhland and Professor Corda, former Post-Doctoral Fellows and Scholars include Dr. Zachary Hoskins, who is now a professor in Philosophy Department at the University of Nottingham in the UK. Professor Hoskins holds the distinction of being the first Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Robina Institute and worked on research in criminal law theory while he was at the Institute from 2011-2014. Dr. Rhys Hester is currently the Deputy Director of Research at the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Criminology and Penn State University. Dr. Hester continues to collaborate on the Criminal History Enhancements Project at the Institute. Dr. Mariel Alper was a Fellow from 2014 through 2015. She conducted research on the Probation Revocation Project and Parole Release and Revocation Project while she was at the Institute. She is currently a Statistician with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice. Her current work focuses on recidivism and community corrections.
In addition to working with early-career scholars, the Institute has also supported Fellowships with professionals who have explored issues in criminal justice practice and policy that fall outside of the scope of our research area in sentencing law and policy. Emily Baxter was a Robina Fellow from 2013 to 2015. During her fellowship, Baxter focused on the collateral consequences of criminal and juvenile records with the goal of fostering dialogue and rethinking of society's concepts of crime, criminality, and redemption. She is the Founding Director of the We Are All Criminals (WAAC), which is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization inspiring empathy and igniting social change through personal stories of crime, privilege, justice, and injustice, disrupting the barriers that separate us.
John Stuart was a Practitioner Fellow at the Robina Institute from 2015 to 2017. He led efforts on criminal justice and mental health in Minnesota. Mr. Stuart is the former Minnesota State Public Defender. While a Practitioner Fellow at the Institute, he convened Minnesota leadership on issues surrounding mental health competency, ethical representation of clients with mental illness, and collaboration among agencies to better serve Minnesotans with mental illness.
The Robina Institute is fortunate to have collaborated with so many talented scholars and fellows who have made significant contributions to the research and mission of the organization. We look forward to future collaborations that will strengthen our research and bring transformative change to criminal justice and sentencing law and policy.