Based on the vaccination data submitted by students and employees, we have created – in collaboration with offices and departments across campus – comprehensive policies and procedures that will be in place throughout the Fall 2021 semester to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our community and on our experience as Chargers.
Veteran Criminal Justice Professor Represents the Power of a Single Voice
Mike Lawlor, a former state legislator, prosecutor, and policy maker, returned to the classroom full-time this semester after eight years overseeing criminal justice reform efforts as a member of the administration of former Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.
June 3, 2019
By Jackie Hennessey, Contributing Writer
Mike Lawlor, J.D., an associate professor of criminal justice, has been fascinated with politics since he was seven years old. "I was the kid at school wearing the LBJ hat," he says.
He had an understanding, even then, he says, that one person could make a difference in the world.
Making a difference in the criminal justice system, in politics, in policy work, and in the classroom is just what he has done throughout his career. He’s gone from the public defender’s office while a law student at George Washington University to a prosecutor in Connecticut Superior Court to the state legislature, where he served for 24 years and became a leader in criminal justice reform and championed legislation that made Connecticut the second state in the nation to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.
From 2011 to 2018, he was undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning for former Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. He developed and implemented initiatives including juvenile justice, bail, and drug policy reforms; post Sandy Hook gun control legislation; and repeal of the death penalty, as well as initiatives that addressed racial disparities in the criminal justice system and mass incarceration.
Those initiatives helped lead to a 41 percent decrease in arrests in the state from 2009 to 2017, a decrease in violent crime, and a marked decrease in the state’s prison population from 20,000 inmates in 2008 to 13,000 in 2019.
"I think all of them have a passion to serve and to make the world a better place. They are thinking about big, difficult social problems and how we can we deal with them."Mike Lawlor, J.D.
He’s most proud, he says, of working to thwart the school-to-prison pipeline, collaborating with state agencies and school systems to develop initiatives that – between 2009 and 2018 – led to a 63 percent decrease in arrests of 10- to 17-year-olds and a 65 percent decrease in arrests of 18 year olds.
He, too, experienced the impact a person could make in the classroom, "especially at the University of New Haven," where he’s been a faculty member since 1995. "It’s why I like the University so much, teaching students who are so motivated to get involved – and make a difference – in the criminal justice system," he says.
During the spring semester, Professor Lawlor returned to his full-time role at the University, teaching criminal law to undergraduates, after teaching one graduate course a year for eight years.
"When Governor Malloy offered me the position, I said to Dean Gaboury, ‘this is a great opportunity, but I’d love to be able to come back and finish my career here,’" he says. "They were very generous in letting me come back."
Prof. Lawlor will continue his policy research and writing and is focusing on developing new criminal justice policies for adults 18 to 21. "How do we find ways for younger adults 18 to 21, or under 25, to find success if they’ve started down the wrong road?" he says. "How can we help prosecutors sort out offenders and come up with sanctions that are appropriate?"
He also hopes to get Lee College students involved in a Yale Law School project he worked on while part of the Malloy administration: making sure that when people violate parole, they’re given a fair hearing with attorney representation.
"I think it’s fair to say Connecticut is not doing a good job of this and the students and faculty in the Yale Law School clinics pointed that out," Prof. Lawlor says. "These are brilliant law students investigating cases, and it occurred to me that we have students here who are really good at investigatory methods and forensic sciences. Maybe we could complement what the Yale law students are doing."
"Attracting more young people of color into the criminal justice profession is a challenge that everyone in the Lee College agrees is important."Mike Lawlor, J.D.
Lawlor also plans to reach out to Gateway Community College to encourage students of color currently pursuing associate degrees to consider going on to study criminal justice at the University of New Haven.
"Attracting more young people of color into the criminal justice profession is a challenge that everyone in the Lee College agrees is important," he says.
He says he is energized and inspired by the work and the vision of his Lee College colleagues and, especially, his students.
"They want to advocate for children, or work for the FBI, the CIA, or go into law enforcement or the law – a very broad spectrum of interests," he says. "I think all of them have a passion to serve and to make the world a better place. They are thinking about big, difficult social problems and how we can we deal with them."