America is a nation that locks up more people per capita than any other country in the world. The Sentencing Project reports 2.2 million people are incarcerated in America’s prisons. That’s a 500% increase over the past 40 years. The Institute for Criminal Policy Research in London reports America locks up 670 people per 100,000. Russia locks up 439 per 100,000. Rwanda 434 per 100,000. China 118 per 100,000. How in the world did this happen? Are Americans criminally prone? Or has America’s desire for security and tough sentencing policies lost its way?
This week on Life of the Law we ask scholars who have studied the history and changing conditions of prisons, and a man who was incarcerated for more than 20 years, to join us in the studios of KQED in San Francisco — to talk about the social, financial and cultural impact of mass incarceration and what change would look like.
In-Studio: Locking People Up
- Osagie Obasogie is a Professor at the School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, author of Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race through the Eyes of the Blind, and is a member of Life of the Law‘s Advisory Board
- Ashley Rubin is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and is author of the soon to be published book, The Deviant Prison: Eastern State Penitentiary and the Advantage of Difference, 1829-913.
- Keramet Reiter is an Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, and Law at UC Irvine and is author of 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement. She has a forthcoming book with Oxford Press, Keynotes in Criminology and Criminal Justice: Mass Incarceration (2017) and is currently conducting research in Danish prisons, about prison culture and solitary confinement practices, and in Washington State, about solitary confinement reforms.
- Troy Williams is a journalist and the new editor of SF Bay View and while incarcerated founded the San Quentin Prison Report.
- Rebecca McClennan is an Associate Professor of History at UC Berkeley and is 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.
- Heather Ann Thompson is a Professor of History at the University of Michigan and won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History for her book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy.
In-Studio: Locking People Up was edited and produced by Tony Gannon. Special thanks to Osagie Obasogie, Ashley Rubin, Keramet Reiter, Rebecca McClennan, and Troy Williams for joining us at KQED studios in San Francisco.
We also want to thank 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. Music in this episode was composed by Ian Coss. Jim Bennett and Howard Gelman of KQED Radio in San Francisco were our engineers.
This episode of Life of the Law was funded in part donations from our listeners and by grants from the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley, the Law and Society Association and the National Science Foundation.
© Copyright 2017 Life of the Law. All rights reserved.
Suggested Supplemental Reading:
- Race in the Life Sciences: An Empirical Assessment, 1950 – 2000, 83 Fordham Law Review 3089 (2016) (with J. Harris-Wai, K. Darling, C. Keagy, and M. Levesque). PDF
- Moore is Less: Why the Development of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Might Lead Us to Rethink Differential Property Interests in Excised Human Cells (with Helen Theung), 16 Stanford Technology Law Review 51. (2012) PDF
- The Return of Biological Race? Regulating Race and Genetics Through Administrative Agency Race Impact Assessments, 22 Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal 1 (2012) PDF
- Prisoners as Human Subjects: A Closer Look at the Institute of Medicine’s Recommendations to Loosen Current Restrictions on Using Prisoners in Scientific Research, 6 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 41 (2010).
- 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)