The New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement was founded in 1973 as the New England Journal on Prison Law. After a series of informal seminars at the Law School in 1972 dealing with prison law, faculty and students decided to begin the nation's first journal dealing exclusively with prisons. The Journal began as a forum for prisoners, prison officials, lawyers, judges, law students, and others to discuss their views on the legal problems facing the prison system, prisoners, and prison officials. The Journal was highly regarded in its beginning years as the only student journal in the nation that directly investigated and analyzed issues facing the nation's prisons. The first issues of the Journal included articles by judges, esteemed scholars, practitioners, and federal prison officials.
To reflect the faculty and staff's interest in furthering the legal discourse on prison law, the Journal in 1978 began the Confinement Outreach Program, a program allowing Journal staff members to teach pre-trial detainees about the criminal justice system. The program is the only one of its kind in New England and has expanded to include topic-specific classes taught at the Suffolk County Jail twice a week throughout the academic year.
In 1982, the Journal changed its name to the New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement in order to accurately reflect its expanding perspective. Consequently, the Journal entered a new era in becoming the leading voice for the advancement of new ideas in the fields of criminal, juvenile, and civil commitment law. In addition to publishing scholarly works on confinement, the Journal now publishes timely articles contributing to the legal discourse of criminal law and procedure. The Journal has consistently been ranked as one of the top criminal law journals in the nation and remains the only specialty journal that specifically addresses issues of civil confinement law.
In 1997, the Journal began hosting a national symposium to address historical developments and current trends in the areas of criminal justice. In recent years, the symposium has been nationally recognized both for the subject matters addressed and the subsequent contributions from symposium participants in the Journal's symposium issue.