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ASU professor named 'Fellow' by prestigious criminology organization

May 06, 2013

Cassia Spohn will soon add the title "Fellow" to her curriculum vitae. A selection committee from the American Society of Criminology (ASC) chose Spohn to receive an honor that is bestowed upon only a few criminologists each year.

The ASC Executive Board selected professor Spohn as an ASC "Fellow" because of the major contributions she made to research on criminal sentencing, particularly the study of racial disparities in criminal case processing.

“Her research is at the forefront of work that has pioneered new methods and approaches to better understanding how and why judges make decisions,” said Denise Gottfredson who serves on the ASC Fellows Committee. “The work has informed a generation of research and policy on race, gender and sentencing practices.”

"Being named a Fellow is well deserved recognition for Cassia Spohn's important contributions," said Scott Decker, director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. "Her scholarly contributions to research on courts and sentencing has set the agenda for the field.  Her many contributions to graduate education and the development of young scholars are unrivaled in the field."

Spohn is a foundation professor and director of the school's doctoral program. She joined the school in 2006 after serving as department chair and director of graduate students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. A political scientist by training, Spohn is one of the nation's foremost experts in the area of sentencing.

"Dr. Spohn is a pre-eminent scholar on issues of prosecution, sentencing and discretionary justice," said John Hepburn, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Hepburn was dean of the College of Human Services at ASU's West campus when he recruited Spohn and Decker to help create one the top criminology programs in the nation.

"Dr. Spohn has produced a very impressive amount of research," Hepburn said. "But, more importantly, she has earned this award, and her international recognition on the basis of the quality and continuity of her scholarship on critical issues regarding the effects of gender, race/ethnicity, and other factors on sentencing outcomes."

Hepburn credits Spohn for actively engaging and mentoring students to continue her focus on important contemporary issues. ASU doctoral student Mario Cano said Spohn provided direction when he started work on his doctoral degree.

"Right before I came to ASU I was debating whether to get a PhD or go to law school," said Cano. "My very first elective was with her. It was Courts and Sentencing. And I said 'that's the closest thing to legal decision making that I could take.' Until then, I had no idea about the quantitative aspect to the study of law and the philosophy of law."

Spohn recently received the 2013 Defining Edge Award for Research in Social Sciences at an ASU Faculty Awards ceremony. She was given the W.E.B DuBois Award from the Western Society of Criminology (WSC) in 2004 for her contributions to the field based on her research on race and ethnicity. WSC also named her a Fellow in 2010. The University of Nebraska recognized Spohn in 1999 with an award for Outstanding Research and Creativity. 

Spohn is a sought after guest speaker. She regularly speaks at criminology conferences in the United States and has traveled to China, Italy and Israel as a guest lecturer in the past year.

"When she gets up and talks, everyone listens," Cano said. "Everyone in the room has her full attention." 

Spohn has written frequently on the topics of sentencing and race. A book Spohn co-authored, "The Color of Justice," is the leading book on race and crime in America. She has written more than 20 book chapters and more than 100 refereed articles published in leading academic journals, including Criminology, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Criminal Law Bulletin, and Crime and Delinquency, and Justice Quarterly. Spohn's work has also been published in law reviews, including the Albany Law Review, Criminal Law Bulletin and Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law. She is the editor of Justice Quarterly, sponsored by the Academy of Criminal Justice Science.