It’s been more than 45 years since a thousand inmates at Attica Prison (Correctional Facility) in New York took control of the prison. In her 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy, Professor Heather Thompson pieces “together the whole, gripping story, from the conditions that gave rise to the rebellion, which cost the lives of 43 men, to the decades of government obstructionism that prevented the full story from being told.” (NYTimes)
If you listened to our most recent Episode 113: In-Studio-Locking People Up, you know we’re talking about the fact that more than 2.2 million people are locked up in America’s prisons and jails. We invited scholars who have spent their professional lives researching and reporting on this crisis of incarceration, and a man who was incarcerated in California for more than 20 years, to join us in the studios of KQED in San Francisco to talk about how we got here and what it would take to make a safe and humane society.
Immediately after our conversation at KQED, Troy Williams and scholars Rebecca McClennan, Keramet Reiter, Ashley Rubin, and Heather Thompson drove about an hour away to San Quentin State Prison, to go inside the prison for a round-table (recorded) discussion with men locked up, to talk about their right to be heard and to protest behind the walls.
We begin with an introduction by Shadeed Wallce Stepter, producer of this episode, a reporter with the San Quentin Prison Report and Chair of the San Quentin Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Listen: Episode 114
Inside San Quentin — TO BE HEARD
Associate Professor of History at UC Berkeley and author of Becoming America: A History for the 21st Century and The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776-1941
Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and Law at UC Irvine and author of 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.
Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and author of the soon to be published book, The Deviant Prison: Eastern State Penitentiary and the Advantage of Difference, 1829-913.
Professor of History at the University of Michigan and winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History for her book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy
Chair of the San Quentin Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and reporter for the San Quentin Prison Report.
Inside San Quentin: To be Heard — was produced by Shadeed Wallace Stepter, a reporter with the San Quentin Prison Report and Chair of the San Quentin Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Life of the Law’s Senior Producer, Tony Gannon.
We want to thank Rebecca McClennan, Keramet Reiter, Ashley Rubin, Heather Thompson, and the men for joining us for this special Inside San Quentin episode. We also want to thank Emile De Weaver, Rashaan Thomas of Prison Renaissance, and Larry Schneider, Lt. Sam Robinson, and Ron Davis, Warden of San Quentin State Prison, and Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society at UC Berkeley and author of Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Case and the Future of Prisons in America, and Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Culture and Created a Culture of Fear, and Rosann Greenspan, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society for making this very special project possible.
Our post production editors are Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle and Rachael Cain. Our music was composed by Ian Coss and David Jassy. Ceil Mueller of KQED in San Francisco, was our engineer.
We’re a non-profit project of the Tides Center and we’re part of the Panoply Network of Podcasts. You can also find Life of the Law on PRX, Public Radio Exchange. Production of this episode was funded in part by the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley; the Law and Society Association; the National Science Foundation and by you.
© Copyright 2017 Life of the Law. All rights reserved.
Suggested Supplemental Reading:
- Rubin, Ashley T. (Forthcoming) “The Prehistory of Innovation: A Longer View of Penal Change.” Punishment & Society.
- Rubin, Ashley T. (Forthcoming) “Professionalizing Prison: Primitive Professionalization and the Administrative Defense of Eastern State Penitentiary, 1829-1879.” Law & Social Inquiry.
- Rubin, Ashley T. (Forthcoming) “The Birth of the Penal Organization: Why Prisons Were Born to Fail.” In Jonathan Simon, Hadar Aviram, and Rosann Greenspan (Eds.), The Legal Process and the Promise of Justice.
- Rubin, Ashley T. 2017. “Resistance as Agency? Incorporating the Structural Determinants of Prisoner Behaviour.” British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 57, Issue 3, pp. 644-663.
- Rubin, Ashley T. 2017. “The Consequences of Prisoners’ Micro-resistance.” Law & Social Inquiry, Vol. 42, Issue 1, pp. 138-162.
- Rubin, Ashley T. 2016. “Penal Change as Penal Layering: A Case Study of Proto-Prison Adoption and Capital Punishment Reduction, 1785-1822.”Punishment & Society, Vol. 18, Issue 4, pp. 420-441.
- Rubin, Ashley T. 2015. “A Neo-Institutional Account of Prison Diffusion.” Law & Society Review, Vol. 49, Issue 2, pp. 365-399.
- Rubin, Ashley T. 2015. “Resistance or Friction: Understanding the Significance of Prisoners’ Secondary Adjustments.” Theoretical Criminology, Vol. 19, Issue 1, pp. 23-42.
- Rubin, Ashley T. 2014. “Three Waves of American Prison Development, 1790-1920.” In Mathieu Deflem (Ed.) Punishment and Incarceration: A Global Perspective (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 19). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 139-158.
- Response, in The Will to Punish, by Didier Fassin (2016 Tanner Lectures), Oxford University Press (forthcoming, 2017)
- “America’s Human Rights Crisis in Historical Perspective,” Social Justice 42: 2 (2016).
- “Why Prison Stories Matter” (2014), Public Books, http://www.publicbooks.org
- “When Felons Were Human” (2011), On the Human, National Humanities Center (featured contributor). http://onthehuman.org/
- “The Convict’s Two Lives,” in David Garland and Michael Meranze, eds., Rethinking the Death Penalty in Historical Context (forthcoming, 2010, NYU Press)
- “Imprisonment’s ‘Square Deal’: Prisoners and their Keepers in 1920s New York,” Journal of Urban History 28: 5 (Jul. 2003).
- “The New Penal State: Globalization, History, and American Criminal Justice, c. 2000,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (Fall, 2001).
- “Revolutions and Rights,” and “Equality and Citizenship,” Contemporary Civilization Reader, 7th ed. (New York: Heritage Press, 2000).
- “Writings of the American Revolution,” Contemporary Civilization Reader, 6th ed. (New York: American Heritage, 1997).
Heather Ann Thompson (for a more complete list)
- “Unmaking the Motor City in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” Journal of Law and Society. (December, 2014)
- “Lessons from Attica: From Prisoner Rebellion to Mass Incarceration and Back.” In special issue: “Mass Incarceration and Political Repression,” co-edited by Mumia Abu-Jamal and Johanna Fernández. Socialism and Democracy, #66, vol. 28, no. 3 (December, 2014)
- “Writing the Perilously Recent Past: The Historian’s Dilemma.” American Historical Association. Perspectives. (Fall, 2013)
- “Rethinking Working Class Struggle through the Lens of the Carceral State: Toward a Labor History of Inmates and Guards.” Labor: Studies in the Working Class History of the Americas (Fall, 2011)
- Article for special issue of Criminology and Public Policy. Debate with Joshua Page on role of guard unions in the crisis of mass incarceration.
- Joshua Page, “Prison Officer Unions and the Perpetuation of the Penal Status Quo.” Criminology and Public Policy. Special Issue: Special Issue on Mass Incarceration. August 2011. Volume 10, Issue 3
- Heather Ann Thompson, “Downsizing the Carceral State: The Policy Implications of Prison Guard Unions.” Criminology and Public Policy. Special Issue: Special Issue on Mass Incarceration. August 2011. Volume 10, Issue 3
- “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline and Transformation in Postwar American History,” Journal of American History. (December, 2010)
- “Making a Second Urban History.” Essay collection commemorating the publication of Arnold Hirsch’s, Making a Second Ghetto in the Journal of Urban History (May, 2003)
- ”Another War at Home: Reexamining Working Class Politics in the 1960s,”MidAmerica. (September 2000)
- “Rethinking the Politics of White Flight in the Postwar City: Detroit, 1945-1980,” The Journal of Urban History. (January, 1999)
- Thompson, Echoes from the Tombs: The New York City Jail Rebellions of 1970. (forthcoming, 2017)
- Thompson, ed. Speaking Out With Many Voices: Documenting American Activism and Protest in the 1960s and 1970s, (Pearson, 2009)
- Thompson, Whose Detroit: Politics, Labor and Race in a Modern American City (Cornell University Press, 2001). (New Edition of this book, with new material out in May, 2017)