William R. Kelly is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Criminology and Criminal Justice Research at the University of Texas at Austin.  He has taught and conducted research in criminology and criminal justice for over twenty-five years and has published extensively on a variety of justice matters.  Dr. Kelly has considerable experience developing, implementing and evaluating a wide variety of criminal justice programs and policies.  Much of his evaluation research has focused on diversion programs, such as problem solving courts and probation interventions, as well as behavioral health programs in the justice system, including substance abuse and mental health service delivery.

Kelly’s consulting work spans local, state and federal governments and has given him the opportunity to collaborate with a large number of justice agencies including law enforcement, probation departments, prisons and jails, state and federal prosecutors, judges, the defense bar, the court system, problem solving courts, parole agencies, and a variety of criminal justice service providers. He has provided expert advice and counsel on big picture justice policy issues as well as the design, implementation, operation and evaluation of very specific justice programs and initiatives.

He has written four books on reforming the American criminal justice system. Criminal Justice at the Crossroads: Transforming Crime and Punishment was published by Columbia University Press in May of 2015.  Justice at the Crossroads, a book tailored to researchers, practitioners, lawyers and policy makers looks at the past forty years of American criminal justice policy and concludes that the primary focus on punishment has been a phenomenal and costly failure.  However, unlike most other books on this topic, Crossroads then maps out the path forward to the effective reduction of crime, recidivism and cost.

The second book, The Future of Crime and Punishment: Smart Policies for Reducing Crime and Saving Money was published by Rowman and Littlefield in July of 2016. It has been written for individuals interested in public safety, crime, punishment, public policy, government spending, human behavior, and behavioral change.  The Future of Crime and Punishment reviews the recent history of justice policy then addresses a number of key issues, including the causes and correlates of crime and recidivism, scientifically validated strategies for behavioral change, alternatives to traditional prosecution and sentencing, how to more effectively use prisons, how to address the crime trifecta of guns, gangs and drugs, key problems and solutions in juvenile justice, and lessons learned from justice policies in other nations. The Future of Crime and Punishment also presents a considerable amount of new material not covered in Crossroads.  

A third book titled From Retribution to Public Safety: Disruptive Innovation of American Criminal Justice was published by Rowman and Littlefield June 2017.  It was written in collaboration with Robert Pitman, a former United States Attorney and currently a U.S. District Judge, and William Streusand, a psychiatrist.  This book develops an approach for diversion of large numbers of disordered offenders to clinical intervention.  The rationale for this is the fact that we have routinely convicted and punished hundreds of thousands of offenders who have serious mental, addiction, intellectual, and neurocognitive disorders and deficits.  These disorders and deficits are crime risk factors for many of these offenders.  There is nothing about traditional criminal prosecution, conviction and punishment that addresses these conditions.  In fact, contact with the justice system often aggravates them, contributing to the extraordinarily high recidivism of disordered offenders.  We propose a protocol that includes panels of clinical experts that assist prosecutors in identifying disordered offenders and recommending diversion.  The book not only addresses substantial changes in the criminal justice system, but game-changing reform of the public health system.

The fourth book is called Confronting Underground Justice: Reinventing Plea Bargaining for Effective Criminal Justice Reform.  It was written with Robert Pitman, United States District Judge and will be available September 2018.  The book addresses a variety of problems and concerns with plea negotiation, pretrial systems, criminal prosecution and public defense.  We propose a variety of transformative changes to dramatically enhance decision making at the front end of the justice system including pretrial detention, plea negotiation, criminal prosecution versus diversion to intervention/treatment and improving public defense.