CCJS Doctoral Candidate Sara-Laure Faraji was awarded the American Sociological Association’s Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (ASA DDRIG) for 2023-2024 for her project, “The Defendant Wears Prada: Evaluating the Impact of Defendants’ Sartorial Choices on Criminal Justice Outcomes.”

Her dissertation combines experimental survey methods with AI techniques to assess how criminal justice decision-making differs based on defendants’ clothing. Faraji investigates whether the relationship between a defendant’s clothing and decisionmakers’ attitudes towards guilt and punishment are contingent on defendants’ gender, race, and the nature of the offense.

“By exploring a potential explanation for some of the disparities identified in the criminal justice system, this study will have practical implications. Identifying how clothing may elicit or exacerbate biases in decision-making is the first step in reducing a source of potential bias that could be contributing to existing disparities in the criminal justice system,” Faraji said. “Meanwhile, the absence of a relationship could suggest other ways to allocate resources in a defendant’s defense.”

Sara-Laure owes much gratitude to her dissertation committee. First, she thanks Dr. Bobby Brame, her dissertation chair, for his unwavering support, open-mindedness and mentorship. Sara-Laure also thanks her advisor, Dr. Greg Midgette, who was incredibly generous with his time and instrumental in the development of her dissertation research topic. Dr. Sally Simpson’s wide-ranging expertise and Dr. Brian Johnson’s work on the influence of defendants and appearance were foundational sources of inspiration while thinking through logistical, methodological, and theoretical issues of the dissertation project. Finally, Sara-Laure is also very grateful for the guidance of Dr. Peter Steiner, an expert on vignette studies, to identify the causal relationship between clothing and criminal justice decision-making.

In addition to benefiting from the invaluable support of her dissertation committee members, Sara-Laure received substantive feedback from Dr. Shichun (Asminet) Ling, whose multiple and thorough reviews of her proposal drafts strengthened her proposal to the ASA.

Sara-Laure Faraji