Nov. 21, 2002
Vol. 22 No. 5

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    Morris to receive first James Zacharias Award

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    Norval Morris, Professor Emeritus in the Law School, former Dean of the Law School and an internationally recognized expert on the criminal justice system and prison reform, is the first recipient of the John Howard Association’s James Zacharias Award.

    The John Howard Association, located in Chicago, is one of the oldest prison reform organizations in the United States. The award is named in memory of Chicago alumnus James Zacharias (Ph.B., ’33, J.D., ’35), who served as one of the association’s directors and was a strong advocate for prison reform. In 1984, Morris became a member of the organization’s board of directors, and he continues to serve on its advisory board.

    Morris has made significant contributions to the development of the John Howard Association’s policies on incarceration of the mentally ill, sentencing, capital punishment, graduated sanctions and drug treatment in prisons, among other issues.

    “Norval has done so much, for so many, in such an enlightened and caring manner,” said James Coldren, president of the John Howard Association. “We’re simply honoring him for being himself, and we’re very, very fortunate to have had him in our corner all these years.”

    Morris has been involved in the cause of prison reform on behalf of the incarcerated during most of his distinguished 55-year legal career. He has worked to reform the overly punitive approach to punishment and to inject humanitarian ideals into the prison system.

    His most recent book, Maconochie’s Gentlemen: The Story of Norfolk Island and the Roots of Modern Prison Reform (http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/020411/maconochie.shtml), is the well-received fictionalized retelling of a retired naval captain’s enlightened and pioneering transformation of a brutal British penal colony into a model prison.

    Morris also is editor of the Oxford History of the Prison and the author of The Brothel Boy and Other Parables of the Law, as well as numerous articles. In 2000, he received both the American Society of Criminology’s Edwin E. Sutherland Award and the National Council of Crime and Delinquency’s Donald Cressey Award.

    Jean Maclean Snyder of the Law School’s MacArthur Justice Center praised Morris as “one of the most important and forward thinking scholars on prison issues in the past 100 years. Norval continues to set a magnificent example for all of us who work for prison reform,” she said. Snyder also noted that Morris recently co-authored an important article, “The Purposes, Practices and Problems of Supermax Prisons,” on the deleterious effects of housing mentally ill prisoners in “supermax” prisons. In these prisons, 20,000 of the most threatening inmates in the United States’ prison systems are confined in near complete isolation and deprived of sensory stimuli.

    Morris joined the University faculty in 1964. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, he served in the Australian army during World War II. He completed his LL.B. and LL.M. degrees at Melbourne University. In 1949, he received a Ph.D. in law and criminology and was appointed to the faculty of law at the London School of Economics.

    Subsequently, he practiced law as a barrister in Australia and held academic appointments at Melbourne and Adelaide universities in Australia, and at Harvard, Utah, Colorado, and New York universities in the United States.