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Carceral geographies: Mapping the escape routes from mass incarceration

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | September 18, 2014

Today and tomorrow (Sept. 18-19, 2014) at UC Berkeley we will be launching a new undergraduate course thread titled “Carceral Geographies.” Our launch will begin with a keynote address by the great Ruth “Ruthie” Wilson Gimore, scholar/activist extraordinaire who has given us the definitive study of California’s descent into mass incarceration, Golden Gulags: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, … Continue reading »

Abandoning a failed penal experiment: New York’s historic advantage

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | March 4, 2014

The State of New York has made it share of bad penal policy choices. Remember the “Rockefeller Drug Laws” — mandatory life sentences for persons arrested with large quantities of dangerous drugs, which helped set the nation on the path toward indiscriminate use of incarceration? But the Empire State has also had a historic knack … Continue reading »

From humanity to health: Why can’t California get prison healthcare right?

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | February 10, 2014

To considerable embarrassment, no doubt, in the Brown-Beard administration, admissions to California’s newest prison near Stockton California were halted Feb. 5 by the court-appointed healthcare receiver, law professor Clark Kelso. The prison, the first new facility in a decade, is the lynch-pin of the administration’s frequent claim to have gotten on top of California’s decades … Continue reading »

From the War on Crime to ‘World War Z’: What the zombie apocalypse can tell us about the current state of our culture of fear

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | January 10, 2014

Zombies are everywhere.  Ok not (yet) on the streets (so far as I know); but in our cultural imaginary they are everywhere.  You can find them (in small groups and hordes) in high budget nail biting thriller movies like Brad Pitt’s World War Z (2013), on television, and all over print and digital reading material, much of … Continue reading »

Occupy’s prison protest: It’s not yesterday any more

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | February 22, 2012

Getting people around my age, late boomers who grew up in the “fear years” of the 1970s, to rethink their assumptions about prisons, crime and criminal justice is hard; and it keeps us locked into mass incarceration. Consider SF Chron Columnist Chip Johnson’s broadside at the Occupy Movement in the Bay Area’s demonstration at San … Continue reading »

The poor storm: Ending mass incarceration in America

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | February 2, 2012

“But every society has a poor storm that wretches suffer in, and the attitude is always the same: either that the wretches, already dehumanized by their suffering, deserve no pity or that the oppressed, overwhelmed by injustice, will have to wait for a better world. At every moment, the injustice seems inseparable from the community’s … Continue reading »

Cupcakes, affirmative action and mass incarceration

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | September 28, 2011

Yesterday Berkeley’s College Republicans were generating big crowds on Sproul Plaza and big media coverage with a retread of an old bit of anti-affirmative action agit-prop; a cupcake sale in which prices were set by race (just like academic “preferences” for students of color in admissions, get it). (Read Nanette Asimov’s reporting in the SF … Continue reading »

Attica, forty years on

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | September 12, 2011

On the editorial pages of the NYTimes, historian Heather Thompson reminds us all of how profoundly the Attica prison uprising and its violent suppression, 40 years ago, shaped our penal imagination and prepared the grounds for what we now call “mass incarceration.”(read it here) The prisoners who took nine correctional officers hostage and gained control … Continue reading »

Troubling questions on the border between the prison and hospital

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | June 17, 2011

Deborah Sontag’s outstanding feature on the murder of a psychiatric facility worker by a schizophrenic patient with a history of violence is a great overview of one of the most complicated corners of our domestic security governance problem. As recently as the 1970s there were still far more people in mental hospitals than there were in … Continue reading »

Progress and peril in California’s prison crisis

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | January 11, 2011

Maria Lagos of the SF Chron provided an excellent year start summary and analysis of where things stand with California’s both chronic and acute prison crisis. Progress? Only 8,200 prisoners are sleeping in “non-traditional” quarters, like day rooms and gyms, down from 20,000 in 2006. But almost all of this improvement has come from shipping … Continue reading »