Monica Bell is a law and society scholar who studies 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. More generally, Monica investigates how institutions shape the lives of the poor and how they might be more effectively and justly designed.
Monica's writings have appeared in social science journals and law journals. A current paper, "Police Reform & the Dismantling of Legal Cynicism," examines the underpinnings of legal cynicism 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. A 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. Projects for the near future include an exploration of how police conduct shapes neighborhood reputation, a history and narrative of the criminalization of "educational neglect," and a proposal to reform the Housing Choice Voucher program that takes into account the affective lives of voucher holders.
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.