Dean of the University of Chicago Law School: 1975-1979
Norval Morris specialized in criminal law, criminology, and prison reform, areas in which he became an internationally-recognized expert. At the University of Chicago Law School, Morris served as the inaugural Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Criminology. He also directed the Law School’s Center for Studies in Criminal Justice.
Mark Heyrman, a former Chicago Law professor and alumnus (who graduated while Morris was dean), said of Morris in 2004: “He was completely committed to using the law to make the world a better place, particularly for persons in prisons and in mental hospitals.” ["Norval Morris...1923-2004," UChicago News] One example of the tangible results Morris’s scholarship yielded came out of his 1974 Thomas M. Cooley lecture at the University of Michigan Law School. Morris’s proposed prison reforms were implemented soon after by the Bureau of Prisons at a new penitentiary in Butner, North Carolina, as well as other facilities.
During his 55-year career, Morris published 15 books (as author, co-author, or editor) as well as hundreds of articles. Some of his most well-known titles include: The Honest Politician's Guide to Crime Control (1970), The Future of Imprisonment (1974), Madness and the Criminal Law (1982), Between Prison and Probation (1990), and The Oxford History of the Prison (1995). In 1977, Morris co-founded Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, often considered the leading journal in the field of criminology.
Morris also used fiction as a means to advance his ideas about criminal justice and penal reform, in addition to traditional legal scholarship. He wrote The Brothel Boy and Other Parables of the Law (1992) and Maconochie's Gentlemen: The Story of Norfolk Island and the Roots of Modern Prison Reform (2001), both works of historical fiction. The Brothel Boy is a series of short stories about Eric Blair (better known by his pen name George Orwell) and the ethical and legal issues he encountered in his time as a police magistrate in Burma in the 1920s. Maconochie’s Gentlemen concerns Alexander Maconochie’s experience as the superintendent of Australia’s Norfolk Island prison colony in the 1840s. It combines narrative storytelling and critical commentary to describe Maconochie’s transformation of the harsh penal colony into a model of enlightened reform.
Frank Zimring, one of Morris’s protégés (and former Law School professor and director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice), described him thusly: “Norval Morris was a major scholar of the criminal law, an important institution builder in law and criminology in three nations, and the main mentor of a whole generation of currently prominent scholars in the United States.” ["Norval Morris...1923-2004," UChicago News]
Curriculum 1977-78, University of Chicago Law School, 2003
Compensation and the Good Samaritan, Norval R. Morris, 1966
A Proposal for the Abolition of the Incompetency Plea, Norval R. Morris and Robert A. Burt, 1972
The Kreeger Chair, Law School Record Staff, 1965
The Center for Studies in Criminal Justice, Law School Record Staff, 1965
Morris Discusses Prison Reforms, Chip Forrester, 1975
Federal Prison Institutes Law Dean Morris' Reforms, Chip Forrester, 1976
Kalven Chair Named, University of Chicago Magazine staff, 1977
Panel Discussion Marks Law School's 75th Year, Andrew Magidson, 1977
Law Dean Morris to Step Down; May Take New Justice Dept. Post, Carl Lavin, 1978
Morris, Despres Win Awards, Chicago Maroon Staff, 1979
Fiction and the Criminal Law, Debra Ladestro, 1992
Norval Morris, Professor of Law, noted criminologist and advocate for criminal justice reform, 1923-2004, University of Chicago News Office, 2004
In Memoriam: Norval Morris (1923-2004), James B. Jacobs, James R. Coldren Jr., Franklin E. Zimring, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, and Albert W. Alschuler, 2005
Impediments to Penal Reform, Norval R. Morris, 1966