Posts Tagged ‘uc-berkeley’
I have lamented many times on this blog that the media has not been entirely accurate in its reporting on California’s “realignment” policy that went into effect in October 2011 (e.g. here and here). Luckily, there is no reason to be misinformed about realignment anymore because expert criminologist Joan Petersilia, who probably knows more about California parole and reentry than anyone and has advised California governors on criminal justice policy, has recently given an interview the Berkeley Law “Criminal Justice Conversations” podcast series. Listen here!
Unfortunately, and as evidenced by the numerous comments that keep streaming in on an earlier post I did on realignment, there seems to be widespread confusion not just in the media, but also on the ground about how realignment is being interpreted and applied in particular counties. Perhaps this is because the state and/or the counties are not doing a good job of communicating the policy to the public, or because the policy itself has some gaps, or simply isn’t working well (or isn’t working as well everywhere), or… etc. Whatever the reason for the confusion, this makes it all the more problematic that, as Petersilia notes in the podcast, the realignment bill did not set aside funds for evaluating its implementation:
You know it’s so disheartening, I can hardly voice it to you, to be honest with you. It goes against every other trend in every other state, and as you said, at the federal government, but it also goes against California’s recent history. Every other major initiative in modern history in California has had a set-aside, that if you’re going to spend all of this money to do things differently, somebody should be accountable and report back to the legislature about how well it worked. Realignment, we’re investing much more then any of these previous initiatives, and yet isn’t it rather odd that we didn’t set aside any money for evaluation?
Berkeley law professor Jonathan Simon thinks so:
[W]e need a commission to investigate for the public record how the state found itself operating prisons that attract words like torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. This is not Honduras where poverty, spiraling crime, and corruption are the order of the day, or Mexico, but we had prisons that belong in the same frame as recent news stories about the fire the killed hundreds in an overcrowded and chaotic Honduran prison (Guardian coverage here) and a murderous riot by one prison gang against another in Mexico to cover over an escape of elite gang members abetted by guards (coverage in the Guardian here).
Given the severity of the human rights problem in California’s prisons and its duration for more than two decades, retrospective documentation should lead to prospective preventive techniques. The commission could become a California Committee for the Prevention of Torture, or CAL CPT, modeled on the European CPT; a body of legal, medical, human rights, and criminological expert investigators with the authority to inspect any prison, mental hospital, or indeed any place of confinement, in order to warn state government of the potential for degrading conditions to form and how to prevent it.
The full post and more are at Simon’s always thought-provoking Governing through Crime blog.
The Bay Citizen, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization,” has partnered with UC Berkeley’s News21 initiative to publish “Behind Bars,” a series of online articles on California’s prison system. So far, articles have focused on the process of integrating cell blocks, the revolving door of parole, and how the state tracks sex offenders. Read all the articles at the series homepage here; learn more about the project here.
This spring, UC-Berkeley is web-streaming the lectures for law professor Jonathan Simon‘s undergraduate survey course, “Punishment, Culture, and Society.” An easy and handy way to brush up on your crime and punishment history, even if you’re no longer a college student. Here’s an excerpt from the course description:
This course surveys the development of Western penal practices, institutions, and ideas (what David Garland calls “penality”) from the eighteenth-century period to the present. Our primary focus will be on penal practices and discourses in United States in the early 21st century. In particular we will examine the extraordinary growth of US penal sanctions in the last quarter century and the sources and consequences of what some have called “mass imprisonment.” To gain some comparative perspective the course will also take up contemporary penality (or penalities) in Europe, South Africa, Central America, and Asia, as well as US penality and society at some earlier conjunctures. … The course will examine many examples of penal practices and the ideas associated with them including mass imprisonment, the death penalty, and restorative justice. In the last portion of the class we will examine the recent crisis in California’s juvenile prisons through the lenses both of different social theories and the examples of different national and historical penal patterns.