Monica Bell is a legal scholar and sociologist whose scholarship generally seeks to answer two big questions, one descriptive and one normative. First, how does the law shape community life? Second, how can the law be used to make communities whole? Currently, her work focuses on policing, police-community relations in the context of disadvantage, and the intersection of police regulation with related fields of law such as family, housing, and social services provision.
Monica's writings have appeared in social science journals and law journals. A recent paper, "Police Reform & the Dismantling of Legal Estrangement," develops the concept of legal estrangement and draws upon social theory and qualitative data from youth in Baltimore to propose new approaches to police governance. This paper is forthcoming in Volume 126 of The Yale Law Journal. Another recent paper, "Situational Trust: How Disadvantaged Mothers Reconceive Legal Cynicism," reveals specific ways that poor African-American mothers--often depicted as either disdainful of police or as manipulators who unfairly call the police on their relationship partners and children--strategize around criminal justice in the age of heavy policing. This paper, which received the best graduate student paper award of four sections of the American Sociological Association in 2015 (Crime, Law, and Deviance; Culture; Sociology of Law; and Race, Gender, and Class), appears in the June 2016 issue of the Law & Society Review.
A first-generation college graduate, Monica holds degrees from Furman University, University College Dublin, Harvard University, and the Yale Law School. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology & Social Policy at Harvard, a research associate with Yale Law School's Justice Collaboratory, a doctoral fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy at Harvard, and a member of the California Bar.