Professor Joseph Margulies gives a lecture on incarceration on September 26, 2019.

‘Rethinking Violence’ Lecture Urges Students to Question Approach to Violent Crime

“The essence of the criminal justice reform model in the popular press has focused on the lowest of the low hanging fruit — the nonviolent drug offender in prison for possession of controlled substances,” Prof. Joseph Margulies, government, law, said in a lecture Thursday afternoon. But, according to Margulies, this narrative often embraced by the media is wrong. Margulies is a self-described “student of the American criminal justice system,” according to his bio on the Cornell Law School website. He has defended numerous people “caught up in the excesses of the so-called war on terror,” such as Abu Zubaydah — a Saudian Arabian national held at CIA black sites and interrogated in 2002 and 2003, the public discovery of which led to the infamous Bush Administration “torture memos.”

He disputed the popularly-held notion that the United States incarcerates large numbers of low-level non-violent offenders for minor possession charges and sentences them to disproportionate sentences — calling that perception the “holy grail” of incarceration. “We don’t send those people to prison … the search for the low-level non-violent drug offender is like the hunt for a snark …They may exist but they are vanishingly rare,” he said.

Richard Verma meets with former President Barack Obama shortly after his appointment as ambassador.

Former Ambassador to India Richard Verma Discusses Past and Present U.S.-India Ties

In the inaugural lecture at the newly founded Cornell India Law Center, former U.S. ambassador to India Richard Verma spoke about India’s increasing relevance in international affairs, the evolution of U.S.-India ties and the importance of learning from the history between the two nations. The lecture, which took place on Thursday, was the first in a series hosted by the Cornell India Law Center in the law school, which seeks to provide Cornell law students with the opportunity to study Indian law as well as obtain a more in-depth understanding and connection with India through a variety of programs, including speaker series, summer internships in New Delhi and a dual-degree program with Jindal Global Law School in Sonipat, India. According to Verma, by 2030 “India will lead the world in almost every category.” But while India’s strategic location and its position as a democracy “in a tough part of the world” make it an important ally, the country still faces many “risk factors” such as significant climate risks, governance issues across the country, and for many of its citizens, a lack of access to clean water and electricity. “When you go to India, you can feel the excitement, you can feel the energy. People know that this is an exciting time.” Verma said.