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About Neelum Arya

My scholarly interests revolve around criminal law and the politics of criminal justice reform, regulatory theory, and public interest lawyering. My academic background, professional experience, and scholarly interests have all been motivated by the idea that the law can be deployed to curb violence against children, but often fails to do so. I have two major strands of research that explore the tensions and contradictions within the law that harm children in the effort to protect them.
First, I explore the vulnerability of children in out-of-home care. Prior to entering academia I worked to remove youth from adult jails and prisons and improve the conditions of confinement for incarcerated youth in juvenile settings using both litigation and regulatory strategies. Children in out-of-home care will always be particularly vulnerable to abuse and have little to no political power. Despite these limitations, it remains possible to identify legal frameworks that minimize abuse in these settings. A major component of my research is understanding the role of law in curtailing institutional abuse.
The second strand of my research is aimed at understanding the societal response to juvenile crime, particularly violent youth. I have worked on federal and state legislative campaigns to prevent youth from entering the adult criminal justice system since the Columbine school shooting in 1999. Much of the previous scholarship on youth prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system has explained the “who” and “how” youth end up in the adult justice system compared to peers adjudicated in the juvenile justice system. An area that is currently undertheorized is how legislatures choose to define the boundaries between juvenile and adult criminal court. For example, some states only allow youth charged with the most serious crimes to be prosecuted in the adult court, others have a much broader list. Did these lists of waivable offenses start out short and grow long? Have the boundaries between juvenile and criminal court been predominately fixed with a few changes, or are they constantly in flux? Do the changes follow a punctuated equilibrium model of policy change, or some other theory of policy change?


Present Faculty Member, Barry University