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Parr Center Forum: Race, Mass Incarceration, and Sentencing in the U.S.

November 30, 2015 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Please join the Parr Center for Ethics for a discussion of race, sentencing, and mass incarceration in the United States.

Our panel includes Tamar Birckhead (UNC Law), Joe Kennedy (UNC Law), Jim Woodall (District Attorney, Orange and Chatham Counties), and James Williams (Chief Public Defender, Orange and Chatham Counties), with Alyson Grine (UNC Government) moderating. Panelists will present an overview of racial discrimination in mass incarceration, as well as of sentencing laws as they have contributed to this problem.

The panelists will then consider possible solutions to this problem. The focus will be on how to address racial discrimination in mass incarceration through sentencing, but the discussion will be wide-ranging with plenty of opportunity for audience questions.

This event is free; all are welcome – and encouraged – to attend.

Click here for directions to Hyde Hall.


Alyson GrineAlyson A. Grine (moderator) has served as the defender educator at the School of Government since 2006, focusing on criminal law and procedure and indigent defense education. Prior to 2006, she worked for five years as an assistant public defender in Orange and Chatham counties. She served as a judicial clerk for Chief Justice Henry Frye of the NC Supreme Court in 2000 and for Judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson of the NC Court of Appeals in 1999. She received the Albert and Gladys Hall Coates Teaching Excellence Award for 2012–2014. She is co-author of the North Carolina Defender Manual, Volume I; North Carolina Juvenile Defender Manual; and Raising Issues of Race in North Carolina Criminal Cases, for which she received the Margaret Taylor Writing Award in 2015. She was named Albert and Gladys Hall Coates Term Lecturer for Teaching Excellence for 2012–2014. Grine earned a BA with distinction and a JD with honors from UNC-Chapel Hill, and an MA in Spanish from the University of Virginia.


Tamar Birckhead is an associate professor of law and the director of clinical programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a criminal defense attorney with more than 22 years of experience. She teaches the UNC Youth Justice Clinic, an experiential program in which third-year law students defend children charged with crimes in the delinquency courts of Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties. Professor Birckhead’s scholarship has been published in numerous law journals, and she co-edited the third edition of a casebook, Children, Parents, and the Law. Professor Birckhead has defended clients in a wide variety of cases, from violent felony offenses in state court to acts of terrorism in federal court. Among her clients was Richard Reid, the attempted “Shoe Bomber” prosecuted in the First Circuit under the U.S.A. Patriot Act.  She received her B.A. degree from Yale University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.  She will be teaching at Yale Law School as a Visiting Clinical Professor of Law for the 2016-17 academic year.


Joseph KeJoe Kennedynnedy is a Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he has taught Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Investigation, Computer Crime Law, Criminal Justice Policy, Constitutional Law, and International and Comparative Criminal Law. Kennedy taught International Law and Intellectual Property at Northwest University in Xi’an, China during the spring semester of 2012 on a Fulbright Lecture Award.  Kennedy served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at UNC Law School for the 2005-06 academic year. Professor Kennedy’s research interests include the sociology and politics of mass incarceration, criminal law, computer crime, and the Chinese Legal System. Professor Kennedy’s scholarly writings have been published in the Georgetown Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, the Journal of Law and Contemporary Problems, Emory Law Journal and the Hastings Law Review. His article, Monstrous Offenders and the Search for Solidarity Through Modern Punishment, was selected for publication in Criminal Law Conversations, a collection of seminal criminal law articles published in 2009 by Oxford University Press. His article on the connection between mental states in regulatory crimes and the federal sentencing guidelines was selected as best criminal law paper for the Stanford Yale Junior Faculty forum in 2002, and he was the recipient of a Pogue Research Leave at UNC in 2003 and an Ethics Fellowship at UNC’s Institute of Arts and Humanities in 2004. He has presented his scholarly work at Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, Yale Law School, the University College Dublin and the Annual Meetings of the Association of American Law Schools, Law and Society, the American Society of Criminology and the International Congress of Law and Mental Health. His chapter on the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Staples appears in Foundation Press’s book, Criminal Law Stories.  Kennedy is currently at work on a book on the cultural and political roots of mass incarceration in the United States for Oxford University Press. Kennedy also comments regularly on criminal justice and ethical issues of public concern. He has published opinion editorials with Slate Magazine and the Raleigh News and Observer. He has appeared as a media commentator on NBC Nightly News, Fox Weekend Live, National Public Radio, Court TV and a number of local radio and television stations. He also lectures on ethical issues and is a Fellow at UNC’s Parr Center for Ethics.


photoJames E. Williams, Jr. is Public Defender for Orange and Chatham Counties in North Carolina where he has served since 1990. Prior to 1990 he was felony chief of the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office. Mr. Williams graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science in 1973 and Duke University School of Law with a J.D. in 1979. In October 2010, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice established a Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Criminal Justice System. Mr. Williams served as Chair of the Task Force. The work of the Task Force led to the establishment of the North Carolina Commission on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System in September 2012. Mr. Williams is a member of the Board of Directors of the Commission. He also chairs the North Carolina Public Defenders’ Association Committee on Racial Equity and is a member of the North Carolina Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism.



Jim WoodallJames R. Woodall, Jr. attended UNC-CH, graduating in 1982 with a BA in Political Science, and went on to attend UNC School of Law, graduating in 1985. He was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in August 1985. Upon graduation from law school, James worked for the law firm of Baddour, Lancaster, Parker and Hine in Goldsboro, NC. His practice included criminal practice in both district and superior court, as well as real estate, disability and worker’s compensation, civil litigation and government law. The firm represented Wayne County as well as several local municipalities. James acted as town attorney for Pikeville, NC for two years, with regular per diem work for the District Attorney’s Office in Prosecutorial District 8, composed of Wayne, Lenoir and Greene Counties. From 1990-2005, James served as Assistant District Attorney, Prosecutorial District 15B-Chatham and Orange Counties. Currently, James is Elected District Attorney, Prosecutorial District 15B-Chatham and Orange Counties. He was appointed to his present position in 2005 and has been re-elected three times – 2006, 2010, and 2014. James is also a past president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys (NCCDA), and a past member of the following groups and associations: Judicial District 15B Criminal Rules Committee; NCCDA Executive Committee for 5 years; North Carolina State Bar Ethics Committee; North Carolina Youth Accountability Task Force; North Carolina Insurance Rate Task Force; Justice Reinvestment Study Commission; NCCDA Sentencing Study Committee; numerous other legislative task forces, study commissions and committees.


This event is co-sponsored by the Philosophy, Politics, & Economics Program.


November 30, 2015
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category: