Monica Williams

Assistant Professor
Criminal Justice Department

Faculty Adviser
Center for Community Engaged Learning--Community Research Extension

Ph.D. 2013, University of California, Davis

Email (preferred):
Phone: (801) 626-6231

Curriculum Vitae

Interest Areas

Law & society, community and societal responses to sex offenders, social control, policing

Current Research

  • "Community Opposition to Sexually Violent Predators as Legally Constructed Siting Dilemmas." Revise and resubmit at Law & Society Review.
    • Contemporary governance models emphasize local control over local communities, but some state laws allow for and even require top-down decisions to site undesirable people and unwanted facilities in communities. These decisions are often met with local hostility. How do state laws contribute to negative community responses to siting decisions? This article answers this question by examining data from in-depth case studies of three community responses to sexually violent predator (SVP) placements in California. I situate these data in the context of three previously unrelated literatures on legal mobilization, contemporary governance, and the politics of siting dilemmas. I find that California’s sex offender laws signaled to decision-makers the relative unimportance of community inclusion and equality in siting decisions and provided a discursive framework that informed community members’ understandings of sex offenders and public safety in ways that undermined their attempts to achieve collective goals. In light of these findings, I argue that the law shapes siting dilemmas by facilitating the exclusion of communities from siting decisions, encouraging local opposition, and ultimately disempowering already marginalized communities.
  • Book manuscript: No Good Place: Community Activism and the Sex Offender Housing Dilemma. Under contract at NYU Press.
    • No Good Place is a study of variation in community responses to sex offenders. Popular accounts of reactions to sex offenders suggest a nation of vigilantes, but responses to sex offenders often involve collective campaigns that target political and criminal justice systems rather than individual offenders. No Good Place draws on data from case studies of three California communities to examine how local political and legal contexts contribute to variation in community responses to violent sex offenders. I argue that communities’ orientations to political and legal authority, which stem from historical and contemporary relationships between communities and local political structures, politicians, law enforcement, and the courts, contribute to community response strategies. These findings suggest a new perspective on community responses to sex offenders as a contemporary form of civic engagement. When published, the book will inform debates over community members’ involvement in decision-making about sex offender reintegration. More broadly, by showing how relationships between communities and formal institutions contribute to response strategies, the book will enhance scholarly understanding of the local roots of responses to crime, legal and political mobilization, and collective action.
  • "Contextualizing New Parochialism: Race, Geography, and Configurations of Crime Control in Four Communities." With Andrea Leverentz. Under reivew at Criminology.
    • New parochialism was developed by Carr (2003, 2005) to explain contemporary social control, in which parochial-public partnerships replace diminished private and parochial controls. The original concept emerged out of ethnographic work in a white working class community in Chicago. In this paper, we further develop the idea of new parochialism by exploring its relevance in four communities that varied in racial composition and urbanicity. We find that the unique intersections of racial composition, geography, and crime narratives in each place contributed to distinct community responses to crime. Analyzing these dynamics across the four sites, we propose three additional types of new parochialism: weak, tentative, and community-driven new parochialism.

  • The Laws that Weren't: State Resistance to the Allure of Sex Offender Residence Restrictions.
    • Sex offender residence restrictions appear to be largely symbolic laws: they address constituent demands to do something about sex offending, but no empirical evidence suggests that residence restrictions reduce recidivism or the overall rate of sex crimes. While the majority of U.S. states has implemented restrictions on where sex offenders can live, some states have resisted the allure of residence restrictions. This exploratory study focuses on states without residence restrictions. Using data from state government archives and online media articles, I will answer the following questions: how many states have debated residence restrictions without passing them? What were the rationales for not passing these restrictions? Do these states share common characteristics such as similar political ideologies and/or a lack of well-publicized instances of child rape-murder cases? Examining why such popular laws did not pass provides insight into the features of sex offender laws that appeal to the public and politicians and how they might be scaled back in light of increasing evidence of their ineffectiveness. More broadly, the findings will illuminate the processes by which symbolic laws may lose their power in certain state-level contexts.

Selected Publications

Williams, Monica and Bill McCarthy. 2014. “Assessing Stereotypes of Adolescent Rape.” Journal of Criminal Justice. 42(6): 557-567.

Williams, Monica. 2012. Beyond the Retributive Public: Governance and Public Opinion on Penal Policy.Journal of Crime and Justice 35(1): 93-113.

Courses Taught

CJ 1010: Introduction to Criminal Justice
CJ 2300: Policing: History, Theory, and Practice
CJ 3600: Criminal Justice Statistics
CJ 4065: Law & Society
CJ 4900: Sex Crime and the Criminal Justice System
MCJ 6130: Law and Social Control