The annual John Ll. J. Edwards Memorial Lecture is delivered in honour of the Centre’s founder, Professor John Ll. J. Edwards. This event is presented by the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and co-sponsored by Woodsworth College and the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto.

This is a free event, but registration is required

The 2023 John LL. J. Edwards Memorial Lecture

Dorothy E. Roberts
George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

"Family Policing and the Carceral Web: A Call for Abolition"

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Doors open at 3:30 p.m. The Edwards Memorial Lecture will begin at 4:00 p.m.

Debates Room (Room 2034), Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle 

Dorothy E. Roberts George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights



In Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World, acclaimed legal and social science scholar Dorothy Roberts draws on decades of research and activism to expose the foundational racism of the child welfare system. She argues that it is a “family policing system” that is deeply entangled with criminal law enforcement in a carceral web, designed to put Black families under intense state surveillance and regulation, to drive Black children to juvenile detention and imprisonment, and to promote a carceral logic that impedes needed social change. She calls for dismantling this destructive system as we reimagine how to support families and keep children safe.

About Professor Roberts

Dorothy Roberts is the 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor and George A. Weiss University Professor of Law & Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, with joint appointments in the Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology and the Law School, where she is the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights. She is also the founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science, and Society. An internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate, she has written and lectured extensively on race, gender, and class inequities in U.S. institutions and has been a leader in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive freedom, child welfare, and bioethics. She is the author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Pantheon, 1997/Vintage, 2017), Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2001), and Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century (The New Press, 2011), and Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World (Basic Books, 2022), as well as more than 100 articles and book chapters, including “Race” in the 1619 Project book.

Roberts has served on the boards of directors of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Center for Genetics & Society, and National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, and her work has been supported by fellowships from American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Fulbright Program, Harvard Program in Ethics and the Professions, Stanford Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and Northwestern Institute for Policy Research. Recent recognitions of her work include 2022 election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 2022 Juvenile Law Center Leadership Prize; 2021 Rosie Jimenez Award, Abortion Liberation Fund of PA; 2019 Honorary Doctor of Law Degree, Rutgers University-Newark; 2019 New Voices for Reproductive Justice Voice of Vision Award; 2017 election to the National Academy of Medicine; 2016 Society of Family Planning Lifetime Achievement Award; 2015 American Psychiatric Association Solomon Carter Fuller Award.


This event will take place in the Debates Room (Room 2034) on the second floor of the Hart House Building. Signage will be posted throughout the building to direct you.

By transit: The closest subways are St. George or Museum station

Parking: Due to construction, there is no on-site parking available. Street parking options are below:

  • On Hoskin St. by the hour
  • There is a large lot at 9 Bedford and it's about a 12-minute walk to Hart House.

For more visitor info, please visit:

If you are a person with a disability and require accommodation, please contact us at and we will do our best to make appropriate arrangements.

Past Lectures

  • Professor Prabha Kotiswaran, King’s College London, "The Sexual Politics of Anti-Trafficking Discourse" PDF (November 28, 2019)
  • Senator Murray Sinclair, "The Accidental Jurist: Thoughts on a life in the law" (November 19th, 2018)
  • Professor Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of the Center of the Study of Law & Society at UC Berkeley, "THE ARCS OF MASS INCARCERATION: Four Turning Points in the History of US Penality and their Legacy for the Contemporary Penal State" (Oct. 26, 2017)
  • Professor Marie Gottschalk (Political Science Department,  University of Pennsylvania), "Are we there yet? The future of penal reform and the carceral state in the US." (April 8th, 2016)
  • The Honourable Professor Irwin Cotler, Former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada, "“The Omnibus Criminal [In] Justice Agenda: Whither Parliament, the Courts and the Charter” (March 26, 2015)
  • Anthony Doob, Emeritus Professor, Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto, “Losing Our Balance: Old and New Directions in Canadian Criminal Justice Policy” (February 6, 2014)
  • The Hon. Ian Binnie, with an ntroduction by the Hon. Roy McMurtry (November 20, 2012)
  • Professor Federico Varese, Oxford University: "Current Challenges in the Study of Organized Crime" (January 17, 2011)
  • Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor emerita of History at Princeton University, Adjunct Professor of History and Professor of Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, "Judges, Masters, Diviners: Slaves’ Experience of Criminal Justice in Colonial Suriname" (January 25, 2010)
  • Professor Loïc Wacquant, University of California at Berkeley and the Centre de Sociologie Européenne, Paris, "Reconstructing the Penal State"
  • Professor Susan Silbey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "Governing Green Laboratories: Trust and Surveillance in the Cultures of Science". 
  • Prof. Richard V. Ericson, Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto: "Criminalization and the Politics of Uncertainty." 
  • Professor Martin Friedland, University Professor Emeritus of Law and Criminology, University of Toronto: "Criminal Justice in Canada Revisited"
  • Professor David Garland, New York University: "The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society"
  • Professor James Fyfe, Crime and Justice Research Institute, Temple University: "Police Officers Involved in Career-Ending Misconduct"
  • Professor John Beattie, University of Toronto: "The Problem of Urban Crime: London 1660-1750."
  • Professor Kent Roach, University of Saskatchewan: "The Attorney-General and the Charter"