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 Responses to Sexually Violent Predators as Legally Constructed Siting Dilemmas." Under review at Law & Society Review.
    • How does the law contribute to negative local reactions to undesirable people and unwanted facilities? This article connects two previously unrelated sets of literature on societal reactions to sex offenders and local controversies over siting unwanted facilities to examine how the substance and implementation of sex offender laws contribute to local opposition to these offenders and to unwanted projects and undesirable people in general. Analyzing data from in-depth case studies of three community responses to sexually violent predator (SVP) placements in California, I find that sex offender laws constitute an ideology that informs communities’ concerns about SVP placements and that decision-making processes contribute to communities’ negative reactions to these placements. In light of these findings, I argue that the law facilitates and constrains local opposition by contributing to the social construction of risk and danger and limiting the role of public input in decision-making processes.
  • Book manuscript: No Good Place: Community Activism and the Sex Offender Housing Dilemma
    • 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.
  • 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 in the Criminal Justice System
MCJ 6130: Law and Social Control