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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 »

Beard must go: California needs a fresh start in corrections, not a cover-up for business as usual

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | August 14, 2013

When Governor Brown appointed Jeffrey Beard to be the new Secretary of Corrections in California last year, it was supposed to signal a new era.  After decades of Correctional leaders who were insiders, brought up in a system that had normalized a state of permanent crisis and systemic inhumanity, Mr. Beard looked to be reason … Continue reading »


Jonathan Simon, professor of law | July 8, 2013

Today, July 8, 2013, prisoners in California’s supermax “SHU” units (for Secured Housing Units), are commencing a hunger strike and work stoppage, their second in two years (read the solidarity statement here). This is tragic. Hunger strikes are an extraordinary act of self deprivation by people who have almost nothing.  They can result in the … Continue reading »

From House of Fear to Home of Care: The future of imprisonment

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | August 3, 2012

The future of imprisonment in California, and likely much of the nation, was described in some detail this morning (Aug. 2, 2012) on KQED’s California Report. The California Report’s Julie Small toured the construction site for the new California Health Care Facility near Stockton, where contractors are building a specialized prison for more 1,700 prisoners … Continue reading »

Hunger for hope: Solitary confinement and administrative detention in California and Israel

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | May 16, 2012

Cross-national comparisons in penology are notoriously tricky, all the more so when the practices involved are the highly problematic one of holding prisoners in solitary confinement, especially under “administrative” rather than legal judgment (meaning it is up to prison officials if or when the prisoner will be released). Comparing California and Israel is especially problematic … Continue reading »