Honoring the Legacy of Professor Ray Paternoster

The College of Behavioral and Social Sciences mourns the passing of Ray Paternoster, a respected scholar and a beloved teacher and mentor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Paternoster passed away on Sunday, March 5, 2017. He had taught at the University of Maryland since 1982.

“Ray was an important member of our faculty, both because of the innovative research he has done on crime and sentencing, and because of his skill and dedication as a teacher, mentor and colleague. We will miss him deeply.” said Professor James Lynch, chair of the department. “Our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues and students during this difficult time.”

Paternoster’s research and teaching focused on criminal theory, quantitative methods, offender decision making, and issues related to capital punishment. On campus, he was well-known for teaching CCJS200: Statistics for Criminology and Criminal Justice. Across Maryland and the nation, he was renowned for his insights into law, order and race.

Paternoster was the principal investigator of a landmark 2003 study that found Maryland prosecutors were more likely to seek the death penalty in cases involving black suspects accused of killing white victims than in cases involving black killers of black victims or white killers of any victim.

In 2014, he authored a groundbreaking report outlining the first contemporary findings on how the risk of arrest varies across race and gender. The findings were that nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the United States are arrested by age 23—which can hurt their ability to attend school, secure employment and participate fully in their communities. The study analyzed national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults, ages 18–23, and their arrest histories, which ran the gamut from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses. The study excluded arrests for minor traffic violations.

“Professor Paternoster was deeply interested in investigating and offering solutions to the racial injustices in our justice system, both at the state and federal levels. That kind of work changes lives, and leaves a legacy that our community will remember and will honor in our work going forward,” said Dean Greg Ball.

Prior to joining UMD, Paternoster was an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware, a master's degree from Southern Illinois University and a doctoral degree from Florida State University.

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