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Crystal Yang

  • Assessing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on correctional institutions

    April 13, 2020

    Across the country and the world, communities are working feverishly to measure the coronavirus pandemic’s impact — struggling with shortages of tests and depleted health care capabilities to gauge the numbers of the infected, the sick, and the dead. Accurate data is the first vital step in understanding the scope of the problem and developing and calibrating the best response. But, as the world moves to lockdown and social isolation, what is happening to the approximately 2.3 million people behind bars in the United States and to the tens of thousands who work in those facilities — line officers, administrators, nurses, therapists, doctors? Harvard Kennedy School Professor of Public Policy Marcella Alsan and Harvard Law School Professor of Law Crystal Yang have teamed up with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) to conduct the first detailed survey on the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the country’s prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities. HKS discusses their groundbreaking work, what it tells us about the spread and treatment of the disease among some of the most vulnerable populations, and how this valuable data can guide practitioners and policymakers.

  • Researchers release first detailed survey on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on correctional facilities in the United States

    April 10, 2020

    A survey by Crystal Yang and Marcella Alsan: A collaboration between Harvard University researchers and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care has yielded the first detailed survey on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on correctional facilities in the United States. The ongoing survey has so far collected data from more than 320 facilities housing approximately 10 percent of the country’s inmates across 47 states. While not necessarily representative of all correctional institutions, the results nonetheless are vital for policymakers responding to the pandemic in their own states and communities. Among the key findings: Correctional officers, like the general population, are at risk for contracting of COVID-19 infection, with a higher infection rate than inmates. Many protocols call for screening inmates and staff for COVID-19 on a regular basis, but a significant fraction of facilities still lack access to lab testing. The nationwide shortage of PPE as well as ancillary supplies (such as cleaning products and thermometer probes) is also a problem for correctional health care operations.

  • Researchers release first detailed survey on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on correctional facilities in the United States

    April 9, 2020

    A collaboration between Harvard University researchers and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care has yielded the first detailed survey on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on correctional facilities in the United States.

  • Crystal Yang

    Faculty Voices: Crystal Yang ’13 on fear and the safety net

    January 31, 2020

    Professor Crystal Yang ’13 discusses her paper "Fear and the Safety Net: Evidence from Secure Communities," which examines the link between tougher immigration enforcement in the United States and the lack of participation in government safety-net programs by Hispanic citizens.

  • German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

    At Harvard Law, German President Steinmeier discusses digital technology ethics

    November 5, 2019

    On Nov. 1, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier discussed the "Ethics of Digital Transformation" at an event hosted by Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

  • 2019 faculty hires

    New this year for HLS faculty

    September 12, 2019

    With the start of the academic year, four new scholars have joined the ranks of the Harvard Law School faculty and two have been promoted to professor of law.

  • Crystal Yang

    Crystal Yang ’13 named professor of law at Harvard Law School

    June 24, 2019

    Crystal Yang ’13, a law and economics scholar who focuses her teaching and research on empirical law and economics, was promoted to professor of law at Harvard Law School effective July 1, 2019.

  • Crystal Yang

    Crystal Yang: An Empirical Approach

    January 29, 2019

    Assistant Professor Crystal Yang ’13, who joined the HLS faculty in 2014, brings an empirical focus to the study of criminal law. Yang, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, has in the past focused her empirical studies on criminal sentencing. She has now turned her attention to the extensive use of cash bail and pretrial detention in the U.S., in order to understand their short- and long-term consequences.

  • The perverse side effects of America’s harsh immigration policies

    August 15, 2018

    ...Two new papers look at the effects of the programme in its earlier incarnation. They find that it succeeded in its stated goal of removing undocumented workers—but it also reduced access to jobs, health care and nutrition for migrants and citizens alike...Marcella Alsan of Stanford University and Crystal Yang of Harvard University looked at access to welfare and health-care enrollment...Ms Alsan and Ms Yang found that the rollout of Secure Communities was associated with a 10% decline in food-stamp use among eligible Hispanic households. They also estimate that health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act would have been 22% higher among eligible Hispanic households had Secure Communities not been in place, because of fears that any interaction with officials might lead to friends or family being deported.

  • Legal U.S. immigrants may be scared to sign up for benefits

    August 6, 2018

    The Trump administration's immigration crackdown may be leading to an unintended consequence: a drop-off in benefits enrollment among legal Hispanic immigrants. An immigration program called Secure Communities, which was rolled out during the Obama administration, is linked to a lower take-up of benefits such as food stamps and health care enrollment, according to a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The researchers found Hispanic households were particularly hard-hit, even those with legal immigration status. "We find evidence that our results may be driven by deportation fear rather than lack of benefit information or stigma," wrote Marcella Alsan of Stanford Medical School and Crystal Yang of Harvard Law School in the paper.

  • Why Crackdown Fears May Keep Legal Immigrants From Food Stamps

    July 24, 2018

    ...The National Bureau of Economic Research study found that in the decade before Donald Trump took office, there might have been a correlation between deportation fears and the drop-off in the number of Latino immigrants enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as food stamps, and the Affordable Care Act insurance program, also known as Obamacare. Researchers looked at Latino enrollment in food stamps between 2006 and 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. They found that after the federal government began stepping up deportation efforts, Latino immigrant enrollment in SNAP and the ACA dropped...Declines in SNAP and ACA enrollment were largest in “mixed status” households where some people are in the country legally and some are not, the study found. For example, one family member may be a citizen, another an asylee or a permanent resident, and still another undocumented. “There’s a fear of exposing family members,” said Crystal Yang, assistant professor of law at Harvard Law School, one of the report’s authors.

  • Black Defendants Get Longer Sentences From Republican-Appointed Judges, Study Finds

    May 29, 2018

    Judges appointed by Republican presidents gave longer sentences to black defendants and shorter ones to women than judges appointed by Democrats, according to a new study that analyzed data on more than half a million defendants. “Republican-appointed judges sentence black defendants to three more months than similar nonblacks and female defendants to two fewer months than similar males compared with Democratic-appointed judges,” the study found, adding, “These differences cannot be explained by other judge characteristics and grow substantially larger when judges are granted more discretion.” The study was conducted by two professors at Harvard Law School, Alma Cohen and Crystal S. Yang. They examined the sentencing practices of about 1,400 federal trial judges over more than 15 years, relying on information from the Federal Judicial Center, the United States Sentencing Commission and the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

  • Black defendants receive longer prison terms from Republican-appointed judges, study finds

    May 24, 2018

    Federal judges appointed by Republican presidents give black defendants sentences that are, on average, six to seven months longer than the sentences they give to similar white defendants, according to a new working paper from Alma Cohen and Crystal Yang of Harvard Law School. That racial sentencing disparity is about twice as large as the one observed among judges appointed by Democrats, who give black defendants sentences that are three to four months longer than the sentences they give to white defendants with similar histories who commit similar crimes...“Overall, these results indicate that judicial ideology may be a source of the persistent and large racial and gender disparities in the criminal justice system,” Cohen and Yang conclude.

  • Bail Reform Vs. The Politics of Fear

    April 5, 2018

    All over America, people have been demanding real bail reform including but not limited to ending the practice of cash bail. So what is cash bail? Cash bail is when a judge decides to assign a cash amount as the price for an accused defendant to be released from jail on their own recognizance or with conditions...As more and more jurisdictions across the country have passed bail reform legislation, the bail industry is starting to push back emphasizing a counter-narrative built entirely using the politics of fear...But, let’s not mince words here, the entire argument is BS, the VAST majority of defendants stuck in jail because of cash bail are accused of minor crimes as Crystal Yang, an Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School explained in her recent New York University Law Review article: “On any given day, the United States detains almost half a million individuals before trial, with over 60% of the U.S. jail population comprised of individuals who have not yet been convicted."

  • Mentors, Friends and Sometime Adversaries 4

    Mentors, Friends and Sometime Adversaries

    November 29, 2017

    Mentorships between Harvard Law School professors and the students who followed them into academia have taken many forms over the course of two centuries.

  • Connecting beyond the classroom

    April 21, 2017

    More than 60 Harvard Law students and 27 HLS faculty members took over the typically quiet tables of the library reading room for the first “Notes and Comment” event.

  • What keeps former inmates from returning to prison?

    March 31, 2017

    Higher wages for low-skilled jobs often prevents return to prison. The mission statement for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is: “Reduce recidivism among those we touch.” But a big factor keeping a parolee from going back to prison is what the job opportunities are like where an inmate is released, according to a recent study. Ex-offenders released to counties with higher low-skilled wages stand a better chance of not going back to jail, wrote Crystal Yang, a Harvard Law School researcher. Yang studied 4 million offenders in 43 states released between 2000 and 2013. Among those were inmates released from Ohio prisons between 2009-2013. At the beginning of 2013, Ohio parolees numbered 14,653, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

  • Crystal Yang

    Student exhibit shines a light on diversity in the law

    November 17, 2016

    A photo exhibit featuring portraits of legal scholars who represent traditionally marginalized voices will be displayed in Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall from Nov. 17-22.

  • Who’s (left) to judge?

    June 23, 2016

    An op-ed by Tommy Tobin `16. "The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court." With this one line, the U.S. Supreme Court recently gave us a clarion call why the country needs to fill the vacancy caused by the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia...Harvard Law’s Crystal S. Yang found that judicial vacancies affect the administration of our criminal justice system. Her forthcoming article in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy found that judicial vacancies induce prosecutors to exercise their discretion in deciding whether to prosecute a case after an arrest. Professor Yang found that prosecutors may be up to 17 percent less likely to move forward with a case during a vacancy rather than a full-member court. For those cases that are prosecuted, Dr. Yang found that defendants were significantly more likely to plead guilty and avoid a trial, possibly because of better deals offered in a period of overbooked judicial calendars, or a desire of defendants to speed up a process. Professor Yang’s study suggests that judicial vacancies do not simply affect judges, they can change the behavior and outcomes for other actors in our criminal justice system.

  • US court vacancies a judicial emergency

    May 6, 2016

    An op-ed by Tommy Tobin `16. North Carolina is home to the nation’s longest-running federal court vacancy. Recently, Patricia Timmons-Goodson was nominated to fill the post that’s been unfilled for over a decade. Sen. Richard Burr reacted to this news by vowing to block this former state supreme court justice from the federal bench. Federal judicial vacancies occur all over the country. Right now, 60 nominees are awaiting confirmation. Judicial vacancies have consequences. A forthcoming paper by Professor Crystal S. Yang in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy found significant real-world effects on criminal justice outcomes during judicial vacancies.

  • Expanded student government cultivates change on campus

    May 4, 2016

    Harvard Law School Student Body President Kyle Strickland ’16 and Vice President Mavara Agha ’16 worked to enable more students to be involved in improving the student experience at HLS.

  • Criminal justice reform, by filibuster

    April 17, 2016

    It’s not just Supreme Court vacancies that are going unfilled; vacancies have become an acute problem throughout the federal judiciary. A recent study by a professor at Harvard Law School finds that these vacancies are causing prosecutors to drop more cases and offer lighter plea deals than they would otherwise, which has “led to approximately 1,000 fewer federal prisoners per fiscal year . . . largely from drug offenses.” While this may be letting some criminals off easy, the professor suggests that “judicial vacancies may have had an unintended benefit of reducing the prison population toward the optimal level of incarceration...[Crystal] Yang...“Resource Constraints and the Criminal Justice System: Evidence from Judicial Vacancies,” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy (forthcoming).

  • The New Empiricists

    May 4, 2015

    For the growing number of empiricists at HLS, there’s nothing quite so satisfying—or unimpeachable—as resolving a thorny, often contentious, legal or policy question through rigorous analysis of cold, hard data.

  • Meet this year’s new HLS faculty

    September 9, 2014

    A host of new faculty members arrived at Harvard Law School this academic year, and over the summer, Dean Martha Minow announced two new faculty who will join HLS in 2015.

  • Crystal Yang ’13, law and economics scholar, to join the Harvard Law faculty

    June 5, 2014

    Crystal Yang ‘13, a scholar specializing in criminal law and consumer finance, will join the Harvard Law School faculty as an assistant professor in July.