Michael Tonry

Current Fellow

Fellow: Awarded 2021

Field of Study: Law

Competition: US & Canada

Michael Tonry, a University of Minnesota law professor, was formerly professor of law and public policy and director of the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge and held long-term academic appointments in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. He practiced law in rural Maine and was editor and publisher of The Castine Patriot, a weekly newspaper. He has written books on racial issues (Malign Neglect [OUP 1995], Punishing Race [OUP 2011], American sentencing (Sentencing Matters [OUP 1996], Sentencing Fragments [OUP 2016]), and punishment philosophy (Doing Justice, Preventing Crime [OUP 2020]).

Tonry’s project, “The Influence of the Frontier on American Criminal Justice,” examines the effects of three centuries of western expansion on American criminal justice. Influential historians argue that the frontier experience fostered American values of self-sufficiency, individualism, localism, resistance to taxes, and resentment of outsiders. It also fostered fatalistic acceptance of human suffering as an inevitable but acceptable cost of material progress. Tonry intends to show how and why the frontier experience interacted with the histories of race relations, Evangelical Protestantism, and the nineteenth century movement to elect judges and prosecutors to make American criminal justice systems the harshest, most inhumane, and most disrespectful of human dignity in the Western world.

Photo Credit: Rossella Selmini