Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Positions of Interest! U. of Toronto Mississauga

Those on the job market will be happy to read: 
The Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga is advertising for 3 positions, 2 in the area of criminology and 1 in the area of law and society.  
For those unfamiliar with the program, the Department of Sociology at Mississauga has both a Sociology as well as a Criminology and Socio-legal Studies program. Our faculty typically teach undergraduate courses at the Mississauga campus, and graduate courses on the St. George campus in the Department of Sociology.  Many of our faculty are cross-appointed to the Centre of Criminology and Socio-legal Studies on the St. George campus.  Those hired will be joining a vibrant community at Mississauga.  Our current faculty in the area at Mississauga include, David Brownfield, Jennifer Carlson, Randol Contreras, Philip Goodman, Kelly Hannah-Moffat (currently Vice Dean Undergraduate, Mississauga), Nathan Innocente and Paula Maurutto.
Keep reading for more information.

Friday, June 26, 2015

(Short) Book Roundup: New Crime/Punishment Legal Histories

This book round up highlights two recently published works that overlap between legal history and punishment and society, as well as between race and crime and punishment. 

Ely Aaronson's From Slave Abuse to Hate Crime: The Criminalization of Racial Violence in American History (Cambridge University Press) was released in 2014. This should be of particular interest given the events of the last few years and their resonance with centuries of practice. Amazon's blurb explains, 
Spanning previous campaigns for criminalizing slave abuse, lynching, and Klan violence and contemporary debates about the legal response to hate crimes, this book reveals both continuity and change in terms of the political forces underpinning the enactment of new laws regarding racial violence in different periods and of the social and institutional problems that hinder the effective enforcement of these laws.
This book is part of the excellent Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society, which includes Wilf's Law's Imagined RepublicMcLennan's The Crisis of Imprisonment, as well as other great historical law and society works. 

The Legal History blog has also recently highlighted a work that may be of interest to folks: Thomas Aiello's Jim Crow's Last Stand: Nonunanimous Criminal Jury Verdicts in Louisiana (LSU Press) published this year. According to Amazon's blurb,
The nonunanimous jury-verdict law originally allowed a guilty verdict with only nine juror votes, funneling many of those convicted into the state's burgeoning convict lease system. Yet the law remained on the books well after convict leasing ended.... Jim Crow's Last Stand investigates the ways in which legal policies and patterns of incarceration contribute to a new form of racial inequality.

 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Common Ground? Law and Society, Punishment and Society, and Social Theory

I have been thinking through framing an article I'm writing about a particular period of penal transition. Ironically, while I think of Punishment and Society as a subfield of Law and Society---or sometimes as bridge between L&S and Criminology---I do think that there are some projects that are more specifically P&S and less L&S. Barring an epiphany, my current project falls in this category. How is it that a project within a subfield doesn't fit easily within the larger field?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Scholarship at Court

Yesterday (June 18), the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision in a case about possibly racially based peremptory challenges, Davis v. Ayala (576 U.S. ___). But as The Atlantic reports, Justice Anthony Kennedy focused on a different aspect of the case in his concurrence: Ayala's time in solitary confinement. While also citing John Howard's The State of Prisons in England and Wales (1777) and Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Justice Kennedy noted,

The past centuries’ experience and consideration of this issue is discussed at length in texts such as The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society (1995), a joint disciplinary work edited by law professor Norval Morris and professor of medicine and psychiatry David Rothman that discusses the deprivations attendant to solitary confinement. Id., at 184. (p. 2, Justice Kennedy, concurring)
A little further on, he referred to work even closer to this group:

And penalogical and psychology experts, including scholars in the legal academy, continue to offer essential information and analysis. See, e.g., Simon & Sparks, Punishment and Society: The Emergence of an Academic Field, in The SAGE Handbook of Punishment and Society (2013)... (p. 4) 
Kennedy closed with what should perhaps be the slogan of punishment and society (except for the fact that it only focuses on prisons and what we do is so much more than prisons or even traditionally recognized punishment---e.g., immigrant detention and quasi-civil-criminal penalties...)
Over 150 years ago, Dostoyevsky wrote, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." The Yale Book of Quotations 210 (F. Shapiro ed. 2006). There is truth to this in our own time. (p. 4-5) 
 It is a great feeling to see P&S work cited in a USSC opinion!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Book Roundup: Oxford U Press Edition

This week's book roundup comes from trolling the pages of Oxford University Press, and thus the collection is a bit more eclectic, but with a heavy mix of history and legal scholarship.

First, we have two historical works on race and criminal justice.

Pippa Holloway's Living in Infamy: Felon Disfranchisement and the History of American Citizenship (2013)
Living in Infamy examines the history of disfranchisement for criminal conviction in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the post-war South, white southern Democrats expanded the usage of laws disfranchising for crimes of infamy in order to deny African Americans the suffrage rights due them as citizens, employing historical similarities between the legal statuses of slaves and convicts as justification. At the same time, our nation's criminal code changed. The inhumane treatment of prisoners, the expansion of the prison system, the public nature of punishment by forced labor, and the abandonment of the idea of reform and rehabilitation of prisoners all contributed to a national consensus that certain categories of criminals should be permanently disfranchised. 
As racial barriers to suffrage were challenged and fell, rights remained restricted for persons targeted by such infamy laws; criminal convictions--in place of race--continued the disparity in legal status between whites and African Americans. Decades later, after race-based disfranchisement has officially ended, legislation steeped in a legacy of racial discrimination continues to perpetuate a dichotomy of suffrage and citizenship that still affects our election outcomes today.

Jeffrey L. Kirchmeiern's Imprisoned by the Past: Warren McCleskey and the American Death Penalty (2015)
Imprisoned by the Past ties together three unique American stories in U.S history. First, the book considers the changing American death penalty across centuries where drastic changes have occurred in the last fifty years. Second, the book discusses the role that race played in that history. And third, the book tells the story of Warren McCleskey and how his life and legal case brought together the other two narratives.



Next is a qualitative study of hate crime and restorative justice: Mark Austin Walters' Hate Crime and Restorative Justice: Exploring Causes, Repairing Harms (2014)
The study's findings provide original data on the contextual variables that are intrinsic to both the cause and effect of hate-motivated offences, revealing complex socio-cultural and socio-economic factors that are fundamental, both to our understanding of hate crime and to how such incidents can be best resolved.
We also have two studies on international war crimes, one an edited volume on an important case and one examining the ICC and war crimes tribunals more generally.  

The Milosevic Trial: An Autopsy, Edited by Timothy William Waters
The international trial of Slobodan Milošević, who presided over the violent collapse of Yugoslavia - was already among the longest war crimes trials when Milošević died in 2006. Yet precisely because it ended without judgment, its significance and legacy are specially contested. The contributors to this volume, including trial participants, area specialists, and international law scholars bring a variety of perspectives as they examine the meaning of the trial's termination and its implications for post-conflict justice. The book's approach is intensively cross-disciplinary, weighing the implications for law, politics, and society that modern war crimes trials create.
William Schabas' Unimaginable Atrocities: Justice, Politics, and Rights at the War Crimes Tribunals (2014)

International criminal tribunals have often been stigmatized as an exercise in victors' justice. This book traces how this critique developed and the difficulty it poses to the identification of situations for prosecution by the International Criminal Court. The claim that amnesty for international crimes is prohibited by international law is challenged, with a more nuanced approach to the relationship between justice and peace being proposed.

Finally, we have two books exploring gender and crime, one an anthology on the subject, the other exploring the role of medical diagnosis in Shaken Baby Syndrome deaths/murders. 

The Oxford Handbook of Gender, Sex, and Crime, Edited by Rosemary Gartner and Bill McCarthy (2014)

The editors, Rosemary Gartner and Bill McCarthy, have assembled a diverse cast of criminologists, historians, legal scholars, psychologists, and sociologists from a number of countries to discuss key concepts and debates central to the field. The Handbook includes examinations of the historical and contemporary patterns of women's and men's involvement in crime; as well as biological, psychological, and social science perspectives on gender, sex, and criminal activity. Several essays discuss the ways in which sex and gender influence legal and popular reactions to crime. An important theme throughout The Handbook is the intersection of sex and gender with ethnicity, class, age, peer groups, and community as influences on crime and justice. Individual chapters investigate both conventional topics - such as domestic abuse and sexual violence - and topics that have only recently drawn the attention of scholars - such as human trafficking, honor killing, gender violence during war, state rape, and genocide.

Deborah Tuerkheimer's Flawed Convictions: "Shaken Baby Syndrome" and the Inertia of Injustice (2014)

Flawed Convictions: "Shaken Baby Syndrome" and the Inertia of Injustice is the first book to survey the scientific, cultural, and legal history of Shaken Baby Syndrome from inception to formal dissolution. It exposes extraordinary failings in the criminal justice system's treatment of what is, in essence, a medical diagnosis of murder.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The 12 Big Ideas in Punishment and Society - Teaser

From time to time, I've thought about teaching a special topics class, probably at the graduate level, on what I see as the Ten Big Ideas in Punishment and Society. As I define them, the Big Ideas are those that either generated much followup work by other scholars and/or enjoyed a very strong reception from folks. They are not always uncontroversial---I include the Prison Industrial Complex on the list despite major reservations about this phrase and how it has been used (for a great take down, see Wacquant's article on the subject)---but they are tremendously thought provoking and productive of further research (even if that research counters some of the claims in the original). While there are some biases in the list (see below), I have tried to shape the list according to what I think others also think are Big Ideas---there are some concepts I do not use in my own work, but I recognize that they are very influential for others in our field.

The Big Ideas on my list are skewed in two ways, and skirt what we might consider to be the boundaries of the Punishment and Society field.

First, the ideas are skewed towards studies of prison, because that is where my interests lay most strongly and the works with which I am most familiar. These Big Ideas, though, are not only drawn from micro-studies of the prison, but also macro-studies of society and the changes in the use of the prison---the kind of studies we perhaps most associate with Punishment and Society.

Second, the ideas are skewed towards those that I learned about early on. This is a subjective list: while I am trying to identify the most influential ideas, there is a lot of my own preferences and biases, implicit or explicit. For example, my former advisors appear on the list several times--I don't think it is a coincidence, but I do think of these as major works. They are kind of like movies from the 1990s---I enjoy thrillers from the 90s (and early 2000s). I watched these as a child/teenager, so they have a certain nostalgic appeal, in addition to the fact that I think they are great movies. However, someone who did not watch them growing up might not like them as much. I think there is a similar nostalgia at play for works I learned in undergrad and early grad school, which may have a greater appeal than they would otherwise. This is not to say these Big Ideas aren't good and it is only my bias at work. It is to say that it is a possible (likely) bias in the list; overall, I think it is a good list; but others will very likely have their own list that might differ in various ways.

Third, some of the ideas exist at the boundaries of punishment and society, and may or may not fit within the boundaries others draw. For example, the first item on the list--key concepts from prison sociology (inmate culture, prisonization, pains of imprisonment, secondary adjustments) might be considered by some as more properly designated criminology. Given the flurry of activity with these concepts lately in Punishment and Society, I would disagree, but again, these are subjective assessments on my part.

There are plenty of Big Ideas that do not make my list. For example, in this first post, I do not begin with Durkheim's collection of Big Ideas---the Collective Conscience, Social Solidarity, or the Two Laws of Penal Evolution. This is not because I do not like Durkheim's theory--it is actually my favorite by far of the classic social theories. In fact, I tried to resuscitate it in my first year of grad school (see here). His absence from the list does not mean Durkheim's theories are not Big Ideas or really important ideas; nor is it to say that they were not influential. I think many, if not most, punishment courses begin with a discussion of Durkheim. But it is not clear to me that scholars use Durkheim in the same way as they do others ideas on this list. I think his work has been integrated elsewhere--Kennedy's article on punishing the "monstrous," Erikson's Wayward Puritans, and Garland combines insights from Durkheim and others (especially Foucault) in Peculiar Institution. But Durkheim's theory does not strike me as the same kind of cottage industry that other items on the list do.

A few logistical notes about the list. First, some of the Big Ideas are really groups of big ideas along the same lines or that must be discussed together. If I was more disciplined, I could probably limit them to one, but I would rather discuss them together. Second, after careful consideration, I've decided to make the list 12 Big Ideas instead of Ten. At the end, I might also add a bonus prediction for what will be the 13th Big Idea if we jumped ahead five years.

Over the next few weeks, I will do a post on each Big Idea in which I describe the basic premise(s) and defend my choice of the Idea as a Big Idea. My next post will start with Key Concepts in Prison Sociology: Inmate Culture, Prisonization, Pains of Imprisonment, and Secondary Adjustments (Clemmer, Sykes, Goffman).

Update: I forgot to mention that I'll be really interested to see what people think of the list---what they think I left off or what they think doesn't belong.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Aquarius, Packer, and the Warren Court Revolution

NBC's new series Aquarius is a police procedural set in 1968 Los Angeles. The hero, Sam Hodiak, and his sidekick, undercover cop Brian Shafe, tackle a smorgasbord of Sixties' issues, chief among which is the disappearance of a teenage girl into Charlie Manson's nascent "family".

Given my interest in the Manson "family"--I'm working on a book about parole hearings, using their hearing transcripts as my source materials--I was very eager to watch the show, and have put up reviews of all the episodes on California Correctional Crisis (check the sidebar there for links). The bottom line is that I'm far less impressed with the fictionalization of the Manson story than I am with the policing side of the show. The latter, I think, could be a useful teaching tool for those of us teaching the Warren Court revolution.

Aquarius uses a fairly tired trope--the buddy-cop show--which is, of course, hardly a novelty. What's useful about it in this case, though, is that the show is set shortly after the advent of Miranda, leading to interesting interrogation scenes. In the scene that follows, Hodiak and Shafe embody, respectively, Packer's crime control and due process models, and could be used as illustrations of the models in class.



Hodiak and Shafe's fictional successor--Dirty Harry, policing San Francisco--is the embodiment of the post-Warren-court resentment about the advent of due process. This is his conversation with the District Attorney,  making full use of the "out on a technicality" trope:



P&S Scholars in the News: The "Ferguson Effect" on Crime

Punishment giants Franklin Zimring and Bernard Harcourt have both recently responded to claims that we are approaching another crime wave---caused by Ferguson and an emboldened "criminal element," according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised by this latest WSJ claim. A 2011 WSJ article about the persistent crime decline (despite the Great Recession), by James Q. Wilson, included the lovely statement that, "Blacks still constitute the core of America's crime problem." It also attributed the crime decline to, among other things, the higher incarceration rate ("greater incarceration can explain about one-quarter or more of the crime decline"), responsibilization on the part of potential victims, and "more disciplined" policing. Four years later, Heather Mac Donald has written, "Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America."

If the Great Recession couldn't upset the crime decline, what is doing it this time? The "Ferguson Effect":
Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests, like those that followed the death of Vonderrit Myersin St. Louis last October. The 18-year-old Myers, awaiting trial on gun and resisting-arrest charges, had fired three shots at an officer at close range. Arrests in black communities are even more fraught than usual, with hostile, jeering crowds pressing in on officers and spreading lies about the encounter.

Acquittals of police officers for the use of deadly force against black suspects are now automatically presented as a miscarriage of justice. Proposals aimed at producing more cop convictions abound, but New York state seems especially enthusiastic about the idea.
The idea of racially biased policing, Mac Donald says, is a mere "conceit."

Enter Zimring and Harcourt. On Saturday, Bernard Harcourt follows up an article in the NY Times by Tracey Meares and Jeff Fagan (themselves well known in our community) undermining the statistical evidence, by providing useful context. Harcourt uses Katherine Beckett's Making Crime Pay, highlighting the 1960s political strategy behind racializing crime trends. As Harcourt summarizes,
Linking crime to race as a way to undermine a civil rights movement is an approach that was woven into the fabric of the law-and-order movement from that period til now. 
(Because when protests are riots, and protesters are part of a mob, why listen? Similarly, protests of police misconduct are overreactions.)
With no reliable evidence to go on other than an assortment of anecdotes and hunches, the “Ferguson effect” follows in a long line of conservative efforts to undermine racial equality.
Over at the NY Daily Press, Frank Zimring (author of The City that Became Safe, about NYC's very dramatic crime decline) offered his own take on the statistics.
Let's start with the uptick in violence in New York City. The most recent official crime statistics indicate that so far in 2015, the city has experienced significant declines from 2014's ultra-low levels in burglary, robbery and larceny. At the same time, total homicides for the first five months of the year at 135 are higher than in 2014 — but quite close to the pace of 2013 and around 30% lower than in 2010. 
At their current rate, killings in New York City would end 2015 as either the third or fourth lowest year in the city's modern history.
One of Zimring's most important but understated points is, "To a student of crime data, this sounds much more like white noise than a blaring siren." Comparing crime trends year to year is a misguided game that might provide useful soundbites---murders are up/down this year 12%! Real crime statistics should be examined in a greater trajectory: even long-term inclines or declines in the crime rate can see short term ups or downs. If one really wanted to look for a Ferguson effect, one should look at careful regression discontinuities and take into account secular trends, at the very least. One should also remember that crime data itself is socially constructed and reported---as we know, victim data and police data do not always agree (sometimes, even counts of how many police officers are employed conflict across sources).

Zimring closes with another piece of context, noting
The same Manhattan Institute that employs her [Mac Donald, the author of the WSJ article] also published a warning by John DiIulio in 1996 that the United States would produce approximately 270,000 more juvenile super-predators by 2010. It's title: "How to stop the coming crime wave." 
That famously predicted crime wave never happened. But last week's revival of dire predictions suggests that the Manhattan Institute has a long-standing tendency to view crime trends with alarm for political effect.

Useful Research on Policing

Following the events this weekend in Texas (see here and here, and (coincidentally) watching Fruitvale Station (now on Netflix), I’ve been thinking a lot about policing. This has been a particularly disturbing year for police violence and excessive force, particularly in racially disparate ways. Throughout the year, I have dealt with my anger over what is going on by going into my “academic place”---trying to make sense of what has been happening, analyzing it with the resources I have (as someone who is not a policing scholar). Research by two scholars has continuously come to my mind. 

The first is an article by Jeffrey S. Adler in the Law and History Review (2012) called, “‘The Killer Behind the Badge’: Race and Police Homicide In New Orleans, 1925–1945.” This is not a particularly optimistic article, but it does help to explain some of what is going on, and by explaining it, perhaps I feel more control over a situation in which we feel helpless.

The first takeaway—although this isn’t really a point expressly made in the article—is that what we see happening is nothing new (but see p. 530). I think most of us know that, at least on some level—police killings and abuse of black men (often unarmed black men) are more visible now because of the ubiquity of cellphone video cameras, the ability of average people to post videos to youtube and let it go “viral,” as well as media outlets covering these stories. But there is something haunting about reading descriptions about long ago that feel too familiar after this year: 
New Orleans policemen killed fifty-nine people during the 14 years for which complete records have survived between 1925 and 1945, accounting for one out of every twenty homicides in the city and claiming more victims than did local robbers. Municipal law enforcers committed forty-four percent of all white-on-black killings in the city. (Adler 2012, 505) 
Again and again, the deadly confrontation began when a lone patrolman stopped an African-American young man and questioned him for being disorderly, loitering, or acting suspiciously, often speaking loudly or skulking in an alley—behavior that Myrdal termed “a minor transgression of caste etiquette. (Adler 2012, 511)
Using newspaper accounts, police records, and court records, Adler describes in vivid detail several police homicides of black men in early 20th Century New Orleans. Though not an apologia for police violence, the article does explain why these were so common—and why police officers were more likely to shoot black men than white men. Nor does Adler claim the New Orleans police were simply racist—though racialized beliefs, reinforced by structural inequalities, were important. Instead, the article offers a nuanced explanation:
Rather, policemen’s use of lethal force reflected both their formal mandate to preserve social order and their own experiences, perceptions, and definitions of racial order and social stability. African-American New Orleanians’ daily experiences and perceptions of local law enforcers influenced police homicide as well. This collision of experiences and perceptions shaped the interactions between law enforcers and minority residents, creating a cycle of escalating mistrust, acrimony, and violence. (Adler 2012, 498) 
It was both police policy and police interactions, which shaped police officers' future perceptions of suspects' dangerousness, that contributed to these outcomes. First, Police policy was to use violence when confronting (potentially) violent suspects: "police administrators encouraged local law enforcers to shoot to kill and celebrated such deadly encounters" (510). Second, when police encountered black suspects, they expected violence. Why? For one reason, black neighborhoods were among the most violent in the city (515). For another reason, police officers believed black people to be "prone to impulsive, unpredictable eruptions of violence" (516). And one of the more interesting reasons, I thought, was that specifically because many of the African American men who were shot did not have a criminal record, they were unknown to the police, and thus the police officers did not know (as they did with the more familiar white suspects) whether or how violent the black suspect would be, introducing the role of biases or preconceived notions about violent black people (511). 
Adler also describes the importance of other racialized beliefs, particularly about authority, hierarchy, and respect, what we might think of the police version of Code of the Streets.
if the suspicious person responded slowly or, worse still, defied the instruction, the patrolman became more aggressive, setting in motion a series of actions and reactions that frequently ended with a New Orleans policeman fatally shooting an African-American resident.... These police homicides were purposeful and were bound up with ideas about authority and racial order. New Orleans patrolmen viewed an African-American suspect’s refusal to follow instructions as an act of defiance and a challenge both to police authority and the racial hierarchy. (Adler 2012, 512)
(An amazing episode of Scandal this season captured this dimension well.)

I have been recommending Adler's article to people all year, and I am doing the same now. It is a really interesting and well-written article.

The second piece that I keep thinking about, particularly after Ferguson and the protests that erupted across the Bay Area, is by Jerome Skolnick. In 1969, Skolnick (really, the Task Force on Violent Aspects of Protest and Confrontation of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence) published, The Politics of Protest, aka, “The Skolnick Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence: Black Militants, Student Riots, Anti-War Demonstrators.” 

A good portion about the report is intended to actually explain protesting as a political activity---and not one carried out by social deviants but by employed people and  “good students” (xxi). The report suggests that increasing police authority and “firepower” or social control is not the answer; what was apparently a relatively shocking finding for the time, they describe instances of police-instigated violence. While they do not call for more policing, they do call for better policing and greater social awareness. The problem, they argue, is “the policeman is overworked, undertrained, underpaid, and undereducated” and immersed in a law enforcement culture that ignores social factors that help to explain and contextualize protests (1969, 288). The report itself is an effort (I think) to promulgate some of this context:
our research finds that mass protest is an essentially political phenomenon engaged in by normal people; that demonstrations are increasingly being employed by a variety of groups…; that violence, when it occurs, is not usually planned, but arises out of an interaction between protestors and responding authorities; that violence has frequently accompanied the efforts of deprived groups to achieve status in American society; and that recommendations concerning the prevention of violence which do not address the issue of fundamental social and political change are fated to be largely irrelevant and frequently self-defeating. (1969, xix-xx) 
They later elaborate “that mass protest is an outgrowth of social, economic, and political conditions” and not the “‘weakness of the human soul’” (1969, 4).

Reading Skolnick, I feel somewhat more optimistic: with better police training, and greater social awareness, maybe we will see less police abuse. And we probably would---the question is how much less? Given the long-standing and structural biases against black people (and other people of color, for that matter), as evidenced so poignantly by the Adler article, training might not be enough. 

And here, I think more of Skolnick's earlier work, Justice Without Trial: Law Enforcement in Democratic Society (1966). In this work, Skolnick explores a kind of due process v. crime control  dilemma for the police, except that he terms it "the rule of law" v. "the practical dilemmas they face" (1966, vii) in carrying out the rule of law:
Are the police to be principally an agency of social control, with their chief value the efficient enforcement of the prohibitive norms of substantive criminal law? Or are the police to be an institution falling under the hegemony of the legal system, with a basic commitment to the rule of law, even if this obligation may result in a reduction of social order? How does this dilemma of democratic society hamper the capacity of the police, institutionally and individually, to respond to legal standards of law enforcement? (1966, 1) 
The police in democratic society are required to maintain order and to do so under the rule of law. As functionaries charged with maintaining order, they are part of the bureaucracy. The ideology of democratic bureaucracy emphasizes initiative rather than disciplined adherence to rules and regulations. By contrast, the rule of law emphasizes the rights of individual citizens and constraints upon the initiative of legal officials. This tension between the operational consequences of ideas of order, efficiency, and initiative, on the one hand, and legality, on the other, constitutes the principle problem of police as a democratic legal organization. (1966, 6, italics in original)
Here, Skolnick concludes rather pessimistically---things won't change unless we institutionalize respect for the rule of law (or due process/rights perspective of law enforcement).
the dilemma can never be resolved since it contains a built-in dialectic…. If this analysis is correct in placing ultimate responsibility for the quality of ‘law and order’ in American society upon the citizenry, then the prospectus for the infusion of the rule of law into the police institution may be bleak indeed…. Without widespread support for the rule of law, it is hardly to be expected that the courts will be able to continue advancing individual rights, or that the police will themselves develop a professional orientation as legal actors, rather than as efficient administrators of criminal law. (1966, 244-5). 

Update: While I'm at it, I should include a link The Guardian's "The Counted" site---a tally of "people killed by the police in the US."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Recent Articles Roundup

After two book roundups, it's time for an article roundup! Most of you probably already read Punishment and Society and Theoretical Society, but you may or may not read Law and Society Review and Law and Social Inquiry. However, both of the latter have recently published issues with a disproportionate number of articles by Punishment and Society folks.

In Law and Social Inquiry's Spring 2015 issue, check out:
Check out the full issue here.

The June 2015 issue of Law and Society Review has an entire section devoted to "Penal Law & Society":
LSR also features book reviews of Doran Larson's Fourth City: Essays from the Prison in America (reviewed by Miriam L. Wallace), Donald Black's Moral Time (reviewed by Amanda Admire and Dinur Blum, Policing Insurgencies: Cops as Counterinsurgents (reviewed by Klaus Schlichte), and Gail Super's Governing through Crime in South Africa (reviewed by Jonathan Klaaren).

Check out the full issue here.

I think the large number of P&S works in our more mainstream L&S journals is a great sign for our growing subfield!

Friday, June 5, 2015

More Books from 2014 and 2015

Our first book roundup featured five excellent books, most of which center on the themes of mass incarceration, rights and litigation, and the experience of punishment in confinement today. This post rounds out that list with a more eclectic collection, focusing more on race and history, but continuing the central focus on prison.

Perhaps the best segue from the last collection is Marie Gottschalk's new book from 2014, Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics (Princeton U. Press). Whereas several of the books in the last roundup centered on the possible end of mass incarceration, Gottschalk examines the intractability of mass incarceration. Among other things, Amazon's blurb tells us, "[s]he analyzes the shortcomings of the two dominant penal reform strategies--one focused on addressing racial disparities, the other on seeking bipartisan, race-neutral solutions centered on reentry, justice reinvestment, and reducing recidivism."

Also in 2014, we got Robert Ferguson's Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment (Harvard U. Press), which offers another view of why we've gotten to this point. According to Amazon, "He reveals the veiled pleasure behind the impulse to punish (which confuses our thinking about the purpose of punishment), explains why over time all punishment regimes impose greater levels of punishment than originally intended, and traces a disturbing gap between our ability to quantify pain and the precision with which penalties are handed down."

Turning more into history, we have two additional excellent books: First, Thomas Bahde's Life and Death of Gus Reed: A Story of Race and Justice in Illinois during the Civil War and Reconstruction (Ohio U. Press) offers a case study of an African American man who, late in the Civil War, travelled from Georgia to Illinois, where he spent much time in the criminal justice system, ultimately dying at the Illinois State Penitentiary. According to Amazon, "Gus Reed’s story connects the political and legal cultures of white supremacy, black migration and black communities, the Midwest’s experience with the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the resurgence of nationwide opposition to African American civil rights in the late nineteenth century. These experiences shaped a nation with deep and unresolved misgivings about race, as well as distinctive and conflicting ideas about justice and how to achieve it."

Second, focusing on a period nearly 100 years later, Dan Berger's Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era (UNC Press) traces the origin of mass incarceration to mid-century Black activism (see also Gottschalk's The Prison and the Gallows). According to the Amazon blurb, Berger argues, "The prison shaped the rise and spread of black activism, from civil rights demonstrators willfully risking arrests to the many current and former prisoners that built or joined organizations such as the Black Panther Party. Grounded in extensive research, Berger engagingly demonstrates that such organizing made prison walls porous and influenced generations of activists that followed." (This one might replace Cummins' Rise and Fall of the Radical Prisoner Movement on my prison history syllabus, but I haven't decided yet.)


New in 2015, we have Dennis Childs's Slaves of the State: Black Incarceration from the Chain Gang to the Penitentiary (U. of Minnesota Press). According to the blurb on Amazon, "Dennis Childs argues that the incarceration of black people and other historically repressed groups in chain gangs, peon camps, prison plantations, and penitentiaries represents a ghostly perpetuation of chattel slavery. He exposes how the Thirteenth Amendment’s exception clause—allowing for enslavement as “punishment for a crime”—has inaugurated forms of racial capitalist misogynist incarceration that serve as haunting returns of conditions Africans endured in the barracoons and slave ship holds of the Middle Passage, on plantations, and in chattel slavery." I only recently ordered this from Amazon, but I want to see how it changes the picture I have from Oshinsky's Worse than Slavery, McLennan's The Crisis of Imprisonment, and Alexander's The New Jim Crowe. Reading group anyone?

I've not yet even finished reading these books, but I'm really excited by all of the work being done. More book roundups to come, but let us know if you know of new works (or have one of your own to share)!

Update: an earlier version of this post included the publisher for only one book; the rest of the books now have the publisher listed as well.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Teaching Notes: The Evolution of My Punishment and Society Syllabus

(From time to time, dedicated or guest bloggers might write about teaching issues relevant to P&S scholars and teachers. This is one such post.)

This fall, I teach my (undergraduate) punishment and society class for the fourth time. It will be the first time that I consider the decline of the “severity revolution,” mass incarceration, the war on crime, etc. This post explores the process of making that change---after the jump.

New Books in 2014 and 2015

2014 and 2015 have offered us a good haul of new punishment books. The role of rights and litigation, the visceral experience of confinement, and the possible twilight of mass incarceration seem to be major themes. From 2014, we have Naomi Murakawa's The First Civil Right, Kitty Calavita and Val Jenness's Appealing to Justice, and Jonathan Simon's Mass Incarceration on Trial. According to the blurb from Oxford's website, "In The First Civil Right, Naomi Murakawa inverts the conventional wisdom by arguing that the expansion of the federal carceral state---a system that disproportionately imprisons blacks and Latinos---was, in fact, rooted in the civil-rights liberalism of the 1940s and early 1960s, not in the period after." 
Calavita and Jenness also examine civil rights and incarceration, focusing on the prisoner grievance procedure in California's overcrowded, medically deprived prisons. According to UC Press, "Drawing on sometimes startlingly candid interviews with prisoners and prison staff, as well as on official records, the authors walk us through the byzantine grievance process, which begins with prisoners filing claims and ends after four levels of review, with corrections officials usually denying requests for remedies.... These voices unsettle conventional wisdoms within the sociological literature—for example, about the reluctance of vulnerable and/or stigmatized populations to name injuries and file claims, and about the relentlessly adversarial subjectivities of prisoners and correctional officials—and they do so with striking poignancy."

Simon's book also examines civil rights, major litigation, and mass incarceration, but offers another perspective, less about how mass incarceration occurred, but how society escapes this "fiscal and penological disaster." Simon's work centers on several significant prison limitation cases culminating in the 2011 Supreme Court case Brown v. Plata. This case, Simon argues, (again cribbing from the Free Press's website) "much like the epic school segregation cases of the last century, this new case represents a major breakthrough in jurisprudence. Along with twenty years of litigation over medical and mental health care in California prisons, the 2011 Brown decision moves us from a hollowed-out vision of civil rights to the threshold of human rights."

In 2015, we already have two new releases: Hadar Aviram's Cheap on Crime and Extreme Punishment, edited by Keramet Reiter and Alexa Koenig. Like Simon, Aviram centers her analysis on our possible "escape" from mass incarceration, but offers an analysis centered on economic incentives rather than humanitarian motivations. According to UC Press's website, Aviram argues, "The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated the unsustainability of the incarceration project, thereby empowering policy makers to reform punishment through fiscal prudence and austerity." 


Offering an expansive definition of punishment that should be a welcome move to many punishment and society scholars, Reiter and Koenig explore a variety of sanctions that skirt the boundary between punishment and not punishment. According to the Palgrave website, "Extreme Punishment examines the erosion of the legal boundaries that traditionally divide civil detention from criminal punishment. This collection of empirical studies illustrates how the mentally ill, non-citizen immigrants, and enemy combatants are treated as criminals in three of the world's oldest and wealthiest democracies: Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States."


Are there other books that you've been reading (or bought from Amazon and stare at on your bookshelf with the vow to read them soon)? Let us know! Send an email to punishmentsocietyblog -at- gmail.com.