Mark Ungar

Position: Professor of political science at Brooklyn College and of the Criminal Justice Doctoral Program and the Liberal Arts Masters Program of the CUNY Graduate Center
Campus Affiliation: Brooklyn College
Research Interests: Latin America, security and judicial reform, violence, human rights, international and comparative criminology
Professor Mark Ungar is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, and of Criminal Justice at the Graduate Center. His publications include five books and over 40 articles on police reform, citizen security, human rights, and violence.  He serves as an advisor on citizen security with the United Nations, Inter-American Development Bank, governments, and NGOs in Latin America; and is a commissioner at the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE).  Current initiatives include helping draft arms control regulations with the Congress of Honduras; crafting post-transition police reform with political oppositions in Venezuela and Nicaragua; and helping expand environmental policing in the Amazon Basin.  He has received grants and fellowships from the Ford, Tinker, Henkel, and Tow Foundations; the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and the National Democratic Institute’s Latin American Political Leadership program.  He is an adjunct professor at the Universidad Nacional in Argentina and was the Dae Chang International Visiting Scholar at Michigan State University.


Mark Ungar, ed. The 21st Century Fight for the Amazon: Environmental Enforcement in the World’s Biggest Rainforest (Palgrave, 2018).

This book is the most updated and comprehensive look at efforts to protect the Amazon, home to half of the world’s remaining tropical forests. In the past five years, the Basin’s countries have become the cutting edge of environmental enforcement through formation of constitutional protections, military operations, stringent laws, police forces, judicial procedures and societal efforts that together break through barriers that have long restrained decisive action. Even such advances, though, struggle to curb devastation by oil extraction, mining, logging, dams, pollution, and other forms of ecocide. In every country, environmental protection is crippled by politics, bureaucracy, unclear laws, untrained officials, small budgets, regional rivalries, inter-ministerial competition, collusion with criminals, and the global demand for oils and minerals. Countries are better at creating environmental agencies, that is, than making sure that they work. This book explains why, with country studies written by those on the front lines—from national enforcement directors to biologists and activists.

sustaining human rightsKathrine Hite and Mark Ungar, eds., Sustaining Human Rights in the Twenty-First Century: Strategies from Latin America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
These essays take a much-needed look at the course of human rights strategies rooted in the last century’s struggles against brutally repressive dictators. Those struggles continue today across Latin America. Augmented by the pursuit of broader political, cultural, labor, and environmental rights, they hold accountable a much wider cast of national governments, local governments, international agencies, and multinational corporations.
In Sustaining Human Rights in the Twenty-first Century, some of the Western Hemisphere’s leading human rights experts shape and bolster new approaches, from the concepts of rights to transnational efforts, by placing the struggle for rights in historical and comparative perspective. The contributors provide an historical framework, describe formal and legal institutions, and discuss the citizens’ movements and conceptions of citizenship that produce distinct kinds of political identities and struggles.
policing democracyMark Ungar, Policing Democracy: Overcoming Obstacles to Citizen Security in Latin America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).
Latin America’s crime rates are astonishing by any standard―the region’s homicide rate is the world’s highest. This crisis continually traps governments between the need for comprehensive reform and the public demand for immediate action, usually meaning iron-fisted police tactics harking back to the repressive pre-1980s dictatorships.
In Policing Democracy, Mark Ungar situates Latin America at a crossroads between its longstanding form of reactive policing and a problem-oriented approach based on prevention and citizen participation. Drawing on extensive case studies from Argentina, Bolivia, and Honduras, he reviews the full spectrum of areas needing reform: criminal law, policing, investigation, trial practices, and incarceration.
Finally, Policing Democracy probes democratic politics, power relations, and regional disparities of security and reform to establish a framework for understanding the crisis and moving beyond it.
violence and politicsKenton Worcester, Sally Avery Bermanzohn, and Mark Ungar, eds., Violence and Politics: Globalization’s Paradox (Routledge, 2011).
elusive reformMark Ungar, Elusive Reform: Democracy and the Rule of Law in Latin America (Lynne Rienner, 2001).
Elusive Reform explores one of the Latin American countries’ biggest challenges: establishing a rule of law. Based on a close examination of historical patterns, it demonstrates how executive power and judicial disarray thwart progress toward judicial independence, state accountability, and citizen access to effective means of conflict resolution. Ungar critiques the wide spectrum of agencies responsible for enforcing the law, from the police and prisons to provincial governors, the attorney general, and the judiciary itself. He similarly analyzes the region’s most recent reform innovations, among them judicial councils, national ombudsmen, and community justice forums. Although his focus is on Argentina and Venezuela, he presents valuable material on other Latin American countries, particularly Bolivia. Exposing many overlooked vulnerabilities of Latin America’s democratic institutions, Elusive Reform broadens our understanding of democracy itself. Ungar explores one of the Latin American countries’ biggest challenges: establishing a rule of law.
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