Michael Smith

Professor Emeritus; Kathleen M. & George I. Haight


B.A., Princeton University
B.A., Oxford University
J.D., Harvard University Law School


Michael Smith teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, and sentencing and corrections. He is research director of the Law School's Frank J. Remington Center for Research, Education and Service in Criminal Justice. His recent work on sentencing and corrections appears in Law and Policy, Correctional Management Quarterly, and monographs published by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Professor Smith joined the Law School faculty in 1995, after sixteen years as President and Director of the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City. Vera is a non-profit institute, founded in 1961, which deploys its research and operational divisions to devise, test, and disseminate more effective responses to pressing social policy problems. Vera's research and demonstration programs have sparked, in many U.S. (and some foreign) jurisdictions, durable reforms in crime control, the administration of justice, employment of hard-to-employ populations (e.g., ex-offenders, recovering addicts and alcoholics, the mentally retarded, and the visually impaired), housing the homeless, and caring for the elderly and physically disabled.

Under his direction, the Institute deployed a substantial cadre of criminologists, sociologists, economists and anthropologists, whose basic and evaluative research guided the Institute's building, testing and dissemination of public and non-profit sector innovations. The Institute's research products were its principle means of contributing to policy and practice in other jurisdictions, but permanent service-providing agencies were often spun off from Vera, to carry forward directly the work of successful demonstration programs (e.g., New York City Victim Services Agency, New York City Criminal Justice Agency, New York City Legal Action Center, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Center for Employment Opportunities, Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services, Housing and Services, Inc.). Other Vera demonstration programs, mounted within government agencies, were enlarged and transferred back to the responsible agency (e.g., specialized units within the New York City Police Department, the Bronx and Brooklyn District Attorneys' Offices, the New York State Department of Corrections, the New York State Office of Court Administration). Professor Smith continues to serve on the governing boards of several of these non-profits, and on the editorial advisory board of the Federal Sentencing Reporter , launched by Vera shortly after the Federal Sentencing Guidelines went into effect and published since by Vera and the University of California Press.

Professor Smith's tenure at Vera began in the early 1970s, when he helped establish and run a public interest law firm (the Legal Action Center of the City of New York), and included several years as founding director of the Institute's London office. While at Vera, he published articles, monographs, and some shorter pieces on policing, bail, felony case preparation and prosecution, sentencing and corrections, and on the process of innovation. He regularly co-taught sentencing seminars at Yale Law School, chaired the Criminal Justice Council of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and served on local, state and national advisory committees and policy boards (e.g.., New York City Police Department Internal Affairs and Cadet Corps advisory boards; New York City Infant Fatality Review Board; New York State Governor's Task Force on Alternatives to Incarceration; Executive Board of the Mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council; New York City Substance Abuse Task Force; New York State Sentencing Guidelines Committee; Mayoral and Presidential transition committees; and the United States Sentencing Commission Advisory Committee on Alternatives to Imprisonment).

Since joining the Wisconsin Law School faculty, Professor Smith has served as: member of the National Research Council's Committee on the Assessment of Family Violence Interventions; research director for the Governor's Task Force on Sentencing and Corrections; research and technology consultant to the Wisconsin Criminal Penalties Study Committee; co-convener of the National Institute of Justice's Executive Session on Sentencing and Corrections and of the Cambridge Institute of Criminology's Sentencing Study Group; member of the Dane County Criminal Justice Group, member of the National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence (and chair of its Legal Issues Working Group); and Editorial Board member for the Federal Sentencing Reporter, and for the 28-volume University of Chicago Press series, Crime and Justice: A Review of Research .

Scholarship & Publications

Law Repository

News & Media

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Teaching Areas

  • Criminal Law
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