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!

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