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College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

Faculty and Staff Profile

Rhys Hester

Associate Professor

Office: Brackett Hall

Phone: 864-656-3816


Vita: View

Personal Website:

Educational Background

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
University of Minnesota Law School 2016

PhD Criminology & Criminal Justice
University of South Carolina 2012

JD School of Law
University of South Carolina 2004

Courses Taught

Criminal Law
Criminal Procedure
Justice Administration
Criminal Courts
Professional Development
Moot Court


Dr. Hester's research focuses on courts, punishment, risk assessment, and judicial decision making. His research has been published in the top journals in the field including Criminology, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, and Crime and Justice: A Review of Research. He also enjoys studying and teaching constitutional law, especially Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues.

Prior to joining Clemson, Dr. Hester was Deputy Director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing and was an Associate Research Professor at Penn State. He also previously served as a Research Fellow with the Robina Institute at the University of Minnesota Law School where he taught Criminal Procedure. Prior to receiving his PhD, Dr. Hester was an attorney and clerked for Judge Ralph King Anderson, Jr. at the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

Dr. Hester is currently a consultant with the National Institute of Justice on a project to review and revalidate the PATTERN risk assessment instrument as required by the First Step Act of 2018. For 2022-2023, he was a Visiting Research Scholar at Penn State engaged with the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing's 8th edition sentencing guidelines revisions. His new book Sentencing Without Guidelines, published by Temple University Press, is scheduled to be released soon.

Research Interests

  • Courts and sentencing; judicial decision making

  • Actuarial risk assessment instruments

  • 4th Amendment (search, seizure, use of force)

  • Advanced statistical modeling (hierarchical linear modeling, zero truncated negative binomial models, Cox proportional hazards regression, receiver operating characteristic analysis)

  • Qualitative methods, semi-structured interviews, elite interviews

  • Survey design; program evaluation

Research Publications

Labrecque, Ryan, Rhys Hester, and Jason Gwinn. (2023). Revalidation of the First Step Act Risk Assessment: A Test of Predictive Strength, Dynamic Validity, and Racial/Ethnic Neutrality. Crime & Delinquency.

Roberts, Julian V., Gabrielle Watson, and Rhys Hester. (2023). Imprisonment of Minority Groups: Sentencing Responses in Four Jurisdictions. Crime & Justice: A Review of Research. Vol. 52.

Hester, Rhys. (2022). Reading Rights and Respecting Decisions: An Experimental Test of Consent Warnings. Journal of Crime and Justice.

Hester, Rhys. (2021). Punishing for the Past (Sometimes): Judicial Perspectives on Criminal History Enhancements. The Prison Journal 101(4):443-465.

Hester, Rhys. (2020). Risk Assessment Savvy: The Imperative of Appreciating Accuracy and Outcome. Behavioral Sciences & Law 38(3):246-258.

Hester, Rhys. (2019). Prior Record and Recidivism Risk. American Journal of Criminal Justice 44: 353-375.

Hester, Rhys, Richard S. Frase, Julian V. Roberts, and Kelly Mitchell. (2018). Prior Record Enhancements at Sentencing: Exploring the Unsettled Justifications and Unsettling Consequences. In Michael Tonry (Ed.), Crime and Justice: A Review of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hester, Rhys. (2017). Judicial Rotation as Centripetal Force: Sentencing in the Court Communities of South Carolina. Criminology, 55(1): 205-235.

Hester, Rhys, and Todd Hartman. (2017). Conditional Race Disparities in Criminal Sentencing: A Test of the Liberation Hypothesis from a Non-Guidelines State. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 33: 77-100.

Hester, Rhys. (2016). Sentencing Policies and Practices in South Carolina, Oxford Handbooks Online, (New York: Oxford University Press).

Frase, Richard S., Julian V. Roberts, Rhys Hester, and Kelly Mitchell. (2015). Criminal History Enhancements Sourcebook. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, The Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice.

Smith, Michael, and Rhys Hester. (2011). Arizona v. Gant and Searches of Automobiles Incident to Arrest: Analysis and Recommendations for Policy and Practice. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 34: 265-84.

Honors and Awards

2019 SCJA Outstanding Article of the Year Award for the article "Prior Record and Recidivism Risk" which appeared in the American Journal of Criminal Justice.

2019 CBSHS Outstanding Journal Publication Award for the article "Conditional Race Disparities in Criminal Sentencing" which appeared in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology vol. 33.

College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences | 116 Edwards Hall