LAW AND SOCIETY ASSOCIATION
Collaborative Research Network: Punishment and Society
Hadar Aviram, UC Hastings College of Law, USA
Ashley Rubin, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, USA
RECENTLY PUBLISHED WORKS
Belt, Rabia. 2021. “Mass Institutionalization and Civil Death.” NYU Law Review 96(4): 857-900. [Access it here]
Most scholars who study felon disenfranchisement trace its roots back to Reconstruction. Southern states drew up laws to disenfranchise people convicted of felonies as an ostensibly race-neutral way to diminish the political power of newly freed Black Americans. Viewed against this historical backdrop, the onset of mass incarceration in the current era expands the impact of a practice intended to be both racist and punitive from the start.
This account is true, but it is incomplete. Non-criminal mass institutionalization has also played—and continues to play—a role in systematic disenfranchisement. Marshaling a wealth of archival and historical evidence, from newspapers, legislative debates, congressional hearings, and court cases, I reveal that institutional disenfranchisement is not just about mass incarceration—a singular phenomenon sparked by the Civil War that happens solely within the carceral state and targeted only freed Black people. Institutional disenfranchisement began much earlier, included more spaces than the prison, and initially targeted white men. Indeed, the more familiar prison disenfranchisement had a shadowy twin within the welfare state. Civil death includes more ghosts than previously imagined.
Ben-Natan, Smadar. 2021. “Self-Proclaimed Human Rights Heroes: The Professional Project of Israeli Military Judges.” Law & Social Inquiry 46(3):755-787. [Access it here]
This article explores the cooptation of human rights discourse by looking into how Israeli military judges in the Occupied Palestinian Territories use human rights as professional capital. Previous research into human rights arguments legitimizing the Israeli occupation remained confined to a unitary image of the state. Here, I dissect the separate professional project of military judges. Optimizing a self-congratulatory argument, judges portray themselves as human rights heroes of Palestinians. But while independent judicial activism would criticize human rights violations by the state, military judges use human rights as synonymous with legal professionalism, while avoiding criticism and sidestepping human rights’ challenge to state power.
Using a multimethod approach including analysis of judicial decisions, academic articles by military judges, and in-depth interviews, I argue that between 2000 and 2010, Israeli military judges were responding to a professional legitimacy crisis by what I call mimetic convergence. Relying on new institutionalism and postcolonial theory, mimetic convergence produces belonging and mobility for a professional subgroup that experiences alienation in the “colony” through convergence with the specific characteristics of the legal community of the “metropole.” Mimicking the state instead of criticizing it permits the two projects—promoting military judges professionally and legitimizing the state’s colonial occupation—to coalesce.
Ben-Natan, Smadar. 2021. “The Dual Penal Empire: Emergency Powers and Military Courts in Palestine/Israel and Beyond.” Punishment & Society (Special Issue: Legacies of Empire). Online first. [Access it here]
This article explores the duality of emergency powers and criminal law in old and new formations of empire. Set against the backdrop of the US “war on terror,” I link discussions around current articulations of empire and the treatment of “enemy combatants,” illuminating new connections between empire, emergency, and “enemy penology.” Focusing on Palestine/Israel, I explore the duality created by emergency powers and criminal law from the late British Empire to contemporary Israel/Palestine as an “imperial formation.” Through a genealogy of emergency legislation, military courts, and two case studies from the 1980s Israel, I show how emergency powers constitute a penal regime that complements ordinary criminal law through prosecutions of racialized enemy populations under a distinct exclusionary and punitive legality. Building on Markus Dubber's Dual Penal State, I demonstrate how the—openly illiberal—dual penal empire (i) suppresses political resistance (insurgency, rebellion, and terrorism) and (ii) institutionalizes enemy penology through emergency statutes and military courts. Thus, in imperial formations, such as Israel and the US—which deny their illiberal features—emergency powers are framed as preventive security and denied as part of the penal system, while enemy penology operates in plain sight.
Friedman, Brittany. 2021. “Toward a Critical Race Theory of Prison Order in the Wake of COVID-19 and Its Afterlives: When Disaster Collides with Institutional Death by Design.” Sociological Perspectives 64(5): 689-705. [Access it here]
In this article, I bridge critical sociological perspectives on penal institutions with insights from the sociology of disaster to advance a critical race theory of prison order in the wake of COVID-19 and its afterlives. Penal institutions officially categorize people as detainees, inmates, or prisoners in order to deliberately relegate human beings to a degraded social status, ultimately in service of an intentionally racist system. I theorize why prisons are natural epicenters for COVID-19, identifying the following institutional parameters as social factors: (1) death is by institutional design, where prison order is arranged so that people categorized as prisoners die socially, psychically, and physically; (2) promoting institutional survival rather than human survival is second nature during a disaster because the preexisting social organization of prison life serves this purpose; and (3) when a disaster strikes causing severe loss to people and resources, uncertainty is managed by implementing strategies that magnify the death(s) of incarcerated people in exchange for the life of the institution.
Gurusami, Susila and Rahim Kurwa (equal authors). 2021 “From Broken Windows to Broken Homes: Homebreaking as Racialized and Gendered Poverty Governance.” Feminist Formations 33(1): 1-32. [Access it here]
Broken windows policing is traditionally understood as a tactic of governing public space, but in this essay, we show how this mode of policing also constitutes a war on domestic space. We take up Joy James’s call to investigate how the domestic of domestic warfare necessitates an understanding of the home and household, and we ask how the state leverages broken windows–style policing to govern the home. Drawing from three different cases in Los Angeles County—gang injunctions, post- release supervision, and housing vouchers—we use ethnographic data, interviews, and court filings to show how the state treats the homes of people of color as broken sites of disorder. We contend that it is the state that engages in homebreaking, not the residents. Contextualized within Black feminist scholarship, we identify homebreaking as the state’s attempt to break the home as a site of social reproduction and refuge from oppression, one of many state practices that fracture families of color and their homes, and we identify and examine two such stages of homebreaking: spying—surveillance of the home in ways that mark everyday behaviors and conditions as disordered and punishable; and raiding—punitive state intrusion that forces changes on the home or leads to punishment for perceived disorder.
Hanan, M. Eve. 2021. “Incarcerated Activism During Covid-19.” Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 18(2): 475-513. [Access it here]
Incarcerated people have a notoriously difficult time advocating for themselves. Like other authoritarian institutions, prisons severely curtail and often punish speech, organizing, and self-advocacy. Also, like other authoritarian institutions, prison administrators are inclined to suppress protest rather than respond to the grounds for protest. Yet, despite impediments to their participation, incarcerated people have organized during the pandemic, advocating for themselves through media channels, public forums, and the courts. Indeed, a dramatic increase in incarcerated activism correlates with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic highlights injustice in other areas of criminal legal practices, it reveals both the dangers of silencing incarcerated speech and the potential for prisoner self-advocacy. This essay discusses silencing and speech in carceral spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, using a theory of political philosophy called epistemic injustice. The theory of epistemic injustice addresses how disfavored social groups are excluded from sharing knowledge in public conversations. The stifling of prisoner speech occurs in part because incarcerated people are deliberately separated from the outside world. But it also reflects their status as a stigmatized—and thus discredited—group. Even when their speech is heard, it is discounted as manipulative and untrustworthy.
Second, this essay argues that the self-advocacy efforts made by incarcerated people during the pandemic demonstrate the democratic value of their participation. Among the necessary predicates to meaningful change in criminal legal practices is the democratic participation of the targets of those practices, including suspects, criminal defendants, and prisoners. Their participation in the political sphere serves a vital democratic function the absence of which is felt not only in the authoritarian structure of prisons, but in the failure to enact widespread change to criminal legal practices.
Hyatt, Jordan M., Valerio Baćak, and Erin M. Kerrison. 2021. “COVID-19 vaccine refusal and related factors: Preliminary findings from a system-wide survey of correctional staff.” Federal Sentencing Reporter 33(4): 272–277. [Access it here]
Since the global pandemic began in early 2020, COVID-19 has impacted almost every correctional facility in the country. In Pennsylvania, the pandemic response has required significant changes to the operation of correctional facilities and necessitated a reconsideration of the risks and responsibilities for staff. Although the risks of viral infection are not a completely new concern for people working in prisons, the highly transmissible coronavirus and the near-universal nature of the resulting pandemic has potentially changed how health and safety are viewed. To better understand these concerns, the staff of the PADOC was surveyed to allow them to self-report their perceptions of the pandemic response, the need for vaccination, and other relevant areas. This independent report draws on these data to provide insight into the current perspective held by the PADOC staff population regarding vaccination and some of the factors that are associated with that decision. In turn, these descriptive data can be used to inform the development of evidence-based public health and correctional policies during the pandemic.
Kirk, Gabriela, April D. Fernandes, and Brittany Friedman. 2020. “Who Pays for the Welfare State? Austerity Politics and the Origin of Pay-to-Stay Fees as Revenue Generation.” Sociological Perspectives 63(6): 921-938. [Access it here]
Using a comparative historical analysis of legislative transcripts and primary and secondary historical documents in Illinois and Michigan, we trace the adoption of a largely understudied form of monetary sanction: pay-to-stay fees. Pay-to-stay fees are financial commitments imposed by the state on incarcerated individuals for the day-to-day cost of their incarceration. Our study identified two mutually constitutive bureaucratic motivations for the adoption of these fees—austerity as the primary rationale and deservingness as a secondary rationale. This analysis highlights an earlier conceptualization of monetary sanctions as a means of revenue generation than has previously been explored. Our findings suggest that pay-to-stay fees originated in these states from broader debates about who is ultimately fiscally responsible for the welfare state and the soaring costs of maintaining the rehabilitative ideal. During periods of fiscal crisis, state legislators have consistently looked toward this type of monetary sanction as a means to fund the correctional system.
Laursen, Julie and Ben Laws. 2016. “Honour and respect in Danish prisons: Contesting ‘cognitive distortions’ in cognitive-behavioural programmes.” Punishment & Society 19(1): 74-95. [Access it here]
Using empirical data from prison-based cognitive-behavioural programmes, this article considers how prisoners’ subcultural capital shapes their responses to demands for ‘cognitive self-change’. We argue that accounts of ‘respect’ in the prior literature fail to capture how prisoners react to these programmes, and that a discussion of honour (and what we term ‘respect plus’) needs to be incorporated. The empirical material derives from four different cognitive-behavioural programme setups in three Danish prisons and semi-structured interviews with participants and course instructors. By attempting to create accountable and rational actors, who ‘self-manage’, the therapeutic ethos neglects participants’ life experiences and subcultural capital. Open expressions of moral values by prisoners (such as displays of honour and respect) are considered to be cognitive distortions which are dismissed by instructors, while alternative and ‘correct’ thinking styles are prescribed. Our findings advance understandings of the meanings of honour and respect in prisons in general and in cognitive-behavioural programmes in particular.
Lynch, Mona, Matt Barno, and Marisa Omori. 2021. “Prosecutors, court communities, and policy change: The impact of internal DOJ reforms on federal prosecutorial practices.” Criminology 52: 480-519. [Access it here]
The current study examines how key internal U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy changes have been translated into front-line prosecutorial practices. Extending courts-as-communities scholarship and research on policy implementation practices, we use U.S. Sentencing Commission data from 2004 to 2019 to model outcomes for several measures of prosecutorial discretion in federal drug trafficking cases, including the use of mandatory minimum charges and prosecutor-endorsed departures, to test the impact of the policy changes on case processing outcomes. We contrast prosecutorial measures with measures that are more impervious to discretionary manipulation, such as criminal history, and those that represent judicial and blended discretion, including judicial departures and final sentence lengths. We find a significant effect of the policy reforms on how prosecutorial tools are used across DOJ policy periods, and we find variation across districts as a function of contextual conditions, consistent with the court communities literature. We also find that a powerful driver of changes in prosecutorial practices during our most recent period is the confirmation of individual Trump-appointed U.S. Attorneys at the district level, suggesting an important theoretical place for midlevel actors in policy translation and implementation.
Maier, Katharina, Rebecca Hume, and Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land. 2021. “Crisis in Criminology: Reflections on the Concept of Crisis in the Time of COVID-19.” Annual Review of Interdisciplinary Justice Research 10: 14-37. [Access it here]
In this reflection paper, we explore the concept of crisis in criminology. Crisis is frequently used by criminologists as a defining and evaluative category in empirical examinations of policing and incarceration, for example. Despite its frequent use, the concept of crisis has received little attention in contemporary criminological work. We call on scholars in the field to recognize crisis as an important defining category in criminology. Crisis demands our critical attention as we not only navigate the current global health pandemic and the existing, deep-seated social crises that emanate from our penal institutions, but importantly, also observe how the former impacts the latter. To this end, we propose a range of considerations that we find particularly salient to criminologists in this time of crisis.
Maier, Katharina and Rosemary Ricciardelli. 2021. “‘Prison didn’t change me, I have changed’: Narratives of change, self, and prison time.” Criminology & Criminal Justice. Online first. [Access it here]
Drawing on interview data with over 50 male former prisoners in Ontario, Canada, we examine male ex-prisoners’ narratives of change within prison settings. Specifically, we focus on how ex-prisoners talk about change to self and their persona, as they reflect back on both their pre-prison selves and the ways they believe prison changed them. We find that these ex-prisoners described prison as a time where they developed a more general sense of positive change. Ex-prisoners described how prison living made them “calmer,” “stronger,” and more “patient” overall. These descriptions stand in tension with the overall hostility of prison environments where prisoners are forced to focus on survival and basic well-being as they navigate the risks and threats of prison living. Overall, in this article, we seek to contribute to emerging discussions on positivity within prison settings, acknowledging that studying the more positive impacts of prison is a delicate yet important endeavor necessary to help better understand the experiential complexities of punishment.
Mamet, Elliot. 2021. “Representation on the Periphery: The Past and Future of Non-Voting Members of Congress.” American Political Thought 10(3): 390-418. [Access it here]
Nonvoting representatives, representing American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC, inhabit a peripheral space within the US Congress. House rules bar them from voting on the floor, their authority derives not from the Constitution but from statute, and the office they hold can be revoked at the whims of Congress. Drawing on original archival research, this article sketches out three justifications given for this institution: that nonvoting members would increase information flows to the legislature, that they would incorporate peripheral territory prior to statehood, and that they would empower members to use tools besides voting to exercise political power. It then evaluates the normative status of nonvoting representation in democratic theory, arguing that representation without voting is incongruent with notions of consent and equal power required for democratic self-rule.
Page, Joshua and Joe Soss. 2021. “The Predatory Dimensions of Criminal Justice.” Science 374(6565): 291-294. [Access it here]
Over the past 35 years, public and private actors have turned US criminal justice institutions into a vast network of revenue-generating operations. Today, practices such as fines, fees, forfeitures, prison charges, and bail premiums transfer billions of dollars from oppressed communities to governments and corporations. Guided by scholarship on racial capitalism, we argue that to understand how and why criminal justice operates as it does today, one must attend to its predatory dimensions. Analytically and politically, the concept of predation connects diverse forms of criminal legal takings to one another, to the extractive regimes of earlier eras, and to contemporary businesses that financially exploit subjugated communities. Analyses that focus on predatory relations encourage a reconsideration of some dominant understandings in the study of criminal justice today.
Phelps, Michelle S. and Amber M. Hamilton. 2021. “Visualizing Injustice or Reifying Racism? Images in the Digital Media Coverage of the Killing of Michael Brown.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. Online first. [Access it here]
The explosion of Black Lives Matter protests in the mid-2010s rendered visible state violence against Black Americans, producing a barrage of images and videos of lethal police violence and the protests that followed. These images served as a powerful site of contestation about the meaning of race and racism in the United States for both movement supporters and critics. We examine these dynamics through the lens of media coverage of the pivotal 2014 killing of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson and the protests that followed in Ferguson, MO. Drawing from literatures on race, visuality, and media studies, we explore how media outlets pictured the killing of Michael Brown and the protests in Ferguson, either resisting or reproducing the white racial frame through the selection of images in their coverage. We analyze the images in digital media coverage across nine ideologically diverse media outlets in the month after Brown’s death and the month following the non-indictment of Officer Wilson. Across 1,303 articles, we show that most sites did not center images of violence against Brown, preferring instead images of Brown’s life and, more commonly, protesters and law enforcement. While we found few consistent differences in image categories preferred across outlets’ ideological profiles, the specific content and tone of these images starkly diverged, with liberal sites choosing humanizing images of Brown and protesters and conservative sites favoring criminalizing images. We conclude by considering the role media images play in mediating perceptions of race and racism.
Powell, Amber Joy and Michelle S. Phelps. 2021. “Gendered Racial Vulnerability: How Women Confront Crime and Criminalization.” Law & Society Review 55(3): 429-451. [Access it here]
Prior research illustrates how race-class subjugated communities are over-policed and under-protected, producing high rates of victimization by other community members and the police. Yet few studies explore how gender and race structure dual frustration, despite a long line of Black feminist scholarship on the interpersonal, gender-based, and state violence Black and other women of color face. Drawing on interviews with 53 women in Minneapolis from 2017 to 2019, we examine how gendered racial vulnerability to both crime and criminalization shape dual frustration toward the law. Findings illustrate that police fail to protect women of color from neighborhood and gender-based violence, while simultaneously targeting them and their families. Despite their spatial proximity to women of color, white women remained largely shielded from the dual frustration of crime and criminalization. Attention to the gendered racial dimensions of dual frustration offers an intersectional framework for understanding women's vulnerability to violence and cultural orientations toward the law.
Ravid, Itay, Jordan Hyatt, and Steve Chanenson. 2021. “A Dose of Dignity: Equitable Vaccination Policies for Incarcerated People and Correctional Staff During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” Southern California Law Review Postscript 95(PS1). [Access it here]
Since its emergence in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the lives of millions of Americans. As it so often is during times of crisis, our most vulnerable communities have disproportionately suffered and were overlooked. Among these myriad communities, incarcerated people became a particularly potent symbol of our failure to handle the spread of the virus. In December 2020, a beacon of hope emerged with the introduction of new cutting-edge vaccines which promised to bring the world back to where it was just a year-and-a-half ago. Here again, however, policy and politics have led states to adopt different distribution plans that, broadly speaking, deprioritized incarcerated populations and in some cases correctional staff as well. While vaccinations are now much more widespread, things were dramatically different not too long ago. The first goal of this Essay is to ensure we memorialize how society, once again, failed to protect our incarcerated communities when they needed it the most. To illustrate this, we offer a data-driven analysis of the early state-level policies regarding vaccinations of people who live and work in prisons. Our findings show that vaccination policies tended to systematically ignore or disadvantage incarcerated individuals. We argue that by adopting such policies, states have neglected to comply with their legal obligations, grounded in existing and emerging Eighth Amendment jurisprudence and long-standing ethical responsibilities to proactively vaccinate this population. This is particularly true given that prisons are among the high-risk “congregate settings” that are widely recognized by health experts, and often by the states themselves, as deserving of immediate distribution of vaccines. Based on these obligations, and given recent new virus outbreaks and the realization that some form of COVID-19 is here to stay (and other pandemics may be around the corner), this Essay concludes with recommendations for the future.
Rubin, Ashley T. 2021. “The Promises and Pitfalls of Path Dependence Frameworks for Analyzing Penal Change.” Punishment & Society. Online first. [Access it here]
Although the study of penal changes throughout history is central to punishment studies, the field has taken little from historical institutionalists’ theories of institutional change. One of the most relevant such theories is path dependence. This article outlines path dependence frameworks’ most fruitful elements for studying penal change. Drawing on foundational political science and historical sociology texts, as well as several punishment scholars’ works, this article highlights the advantages of thinking through stasis and change, mechanisms of inertia such as feedback effects, and exogenous shocks. While path dependence offers a powerful framework, it can also be an unsatisfying explanation at times, particularly when path dependence is itself a seemingly uphill battle, when apparent stasis hides ongoing change, or when institutions survive hypothesized mechanisms of change. This paper closes by discussing some ways in which punishment scholars can strengthen the path dependence framework by blending it with recent theoretical developments in the punishment studies field.
Rubin, Ashley T. 2021. “Revisiting ‘America’s Penal Experiments’ 100 Years Later.” Howard Journal of Crime and Justice (Special Issue on the Centenary of the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Howard Journal) 60(1): 29-37. [Access it here]
In 1921, American prison administrator and reformer, Spencer Miller, was invited to describe America’s recent penal developments to the Howard League for Penal Reform. This article reviews the context of Progressive Era American prisons to better understand Miller’s remarks and their lessons for prison administrators and reformers today. It brieﬂy describes the history of American prisons into the Progressive Era as well as some developments that were most relevant to Miller, viz., the reforms at Sing Sing under famed penal reformer and warden, Thomas Mott Osborne. Next, the article reviews Miller’s statement to the Howard League for Penal Reform, including his inaccurate description of prison history, which can be read as a means of emphasising the extraordinary progress made by Osborne and, implicitly, by Miller at Sing Sing and as an example to the nation. Finally, it discusses Miller’s abolitionism in the context of similar discussions taking place today.
Russell, Emma K., Bree Carlton, and Danielle Tyson. 2021. “‘It’s a Gendered Issue, 100 Per Cent’: How Tough Bail Laws Entrench Gender and Racial Inequality and Social Disadvantage.” International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 10(3). [Access it here]
Women’s rates of remand, or pre-trial detention, have grown dramatically in Australia and the rates at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are incarcerated without conviction are particularly high. However, there is little research examining bail and remand practices and their relationship to social inequalities. This article presents findings from research on the drivers behind women’s increasing rates of custodial remand in Victoria—a jurisdiction that has significantly restricted access to bail through legislative reforms. Drawing on data derived from interviews with criminal defence and duty lawyers, we outline how bail and remand practices systematically disadvantage women experiencing housing insecurity and domestic and family violence (DFV), increasing their risk of becoming trapped in longer-term cycles of incarceration. Our analysis reinforces the need to move away from ‘tough on crime’ approaches to bail. It also highlights unintended consequences of DFV reforms, including further marginalising and punishing criminalised women who are victim-survivors.
Schliehe, Anna and Ben Crewe. 2021. “Top bunk, bottom bunk: Cellsharing in prisons.” The British Journal of Criminology. Online first. [Access it here]
The politics involved in cell-sharing reach into the most personal parts of prisoners’ lives and are highly determinate of their experiences of imprisonment. While there is a small amount of research on the impact of cell-sharing on personal wellbeing and prison quality, much less has been written about the daily dynamics and significance of negotiating shared space under conditions of coercion. In this paper, based on in-depth research undertaken in England & Wales, we explore the experience of cell-sharing and how dynamics in the cell matter both intimately and socially. Essentially, we locate the cell as one of the primary sites of ‘where the action is’ in prisons, and where matters of safety, dignity and abjection are of particular relevance.
Sclofsky, Sebastián. 2021. “Broken windows in the Rio de la Plata: Constructing the disorderly other.” Criminological Encounters 4(1): 31-49. [Access it here]
Since 2010, Uruguay has moved towards a tough-on-crime approach adopting Broken Windows and zero-tolerance policing. The interesting fact is that this tough-on-crime approach has been developed by a social democratic government, which, during its first administration, was committed to fight crime through social-democratic policies, rejecting the tough-on-crime approach. The policies and rhetoric developed by the left-wing government led to the criminalization of low-income communities and the construction of an “undeserving other,” adhering to a neoliberal logic of competition and security. As a consequence, the left-wing set the policy and institutional bases for an increase in mano dura and recent police violence with the electoral victory of the right-wing in 2019. This article examines this process and shows how the uncritical adoption of Broken Windows and other U.S. style policing initiatives can be extremely pernicious in Latin America.
Shaw, Emily, Mona Lynch, Sofia Laguna, and Steven Frenda. 2021. “Race, witness credibility and jury deliberation in a simulated drug trafficking trial.” Law & Human Behavior 45: 215-228. [Access it here]
Objective: The present study integrates several distinct lines of jury decision-making research by examining how the racial identities of the defendant and an informant witness interact in a federal drug conspiracy trial scenario and by assessing whether jurors' individual racial identity and jury group racial composition influence their judgments.
Hypotheses: We predicted that jurors would be biased against the Black defendant and would be more likely to convict after exposure to a White informant, among other hypotheses.
Method: We recruited 822 nonstudent jury-eligible participants assigned to 144 jury groups. Each group was assigned to one of four conditions where defendant race (Black or White) and informant race (Black or White) was manipulated. Each group watched a realistic audio-visual trial presentation, then deliberated as a group to render a verdict.
Results: Contrary to expectations, the conditions depicting a Black defendant yielded lower conviction rates compared to those with a White defendant-at both the predeliberation individual (odds ratio [OR] = 1.54) and postdeliberation group level (OR = 2.91)-while the informant race did not influence verdict outcomes. We also found that jurors rated the government witnesses as more credible when the defendant was White compared to when he was Black. Credibility ratings and verdict outcomes were also predicted by jurors' own race, although juror race did not interact with the race conditions when predicting verdicts.
Conclusions: Jurors are sensitive to defendant race, and this sensitivity appears to strengthen after deliberation-but in a direction opposite to what was expected. One potential implication of our findings is that juries may operate as a check on system bias by applying greater scrutiny to law enforcement-derived evidence when the defendant is Black.
BOOKS/BOOK CHAPTERS/EDITED COLLECTIONS
Barno, Matt and Mona Lynch. 2021. “Selecting charges.” Pp. 35-58 in Handbook on Prosecutors and Prosecution, edited by Ronald Wright, Kay Levine, and Russell Gold. New York: Oxford University Press. [More information here]
Prosecutorial discretion in charge selection has far-reaching consequences throughout the criminal adjudication process. Through their initial charging decisions, prosecutors not only determine who will be subject to the state’s penal power—they also define the terms under which defendants will strategize and negotiate to mitigate their potential punishment. This chapter provides an overview of the criminal charging process, including the legal parameters within which prosecutors exercise their charging discretion and how that discretion is exercised in practice. The chapter begins with a discussion of constitutional limits on the power to initiate criminal charges, as well as limits on the severity of charges. We describe how formal legal structures governing criminal sentencing interact with prosecutors’ power and incentives at the charging stage. We then review both the empirical literature documenting variations in charging practices and the key theoretical explanations for those variations. Finally, we summarize recent research suggesting that prosecutorial charging decisions may be a key driver of the carceral trends that define mass incarceration. The chapter concludes with reflections and recommendations regarding future lines of research on prosecutorial charging practices.
Hatton, Erin (ed.). 2021. Labor and Punishment: Work in and out of Prison. University of California Press. [More information here]
The insightful chapters in this volume reveal the multiple and multifaceted intersections between mass incarceration and neoliberal precarity. Both mass incarceration and the criminal justice system are profoundly implicated in the production and reproduction of the low-wage “exploitable” precariat, both within and beyond prison walls. The carceral state is a regime of labor discipline—and a growing one—that extends far beyond its own inmate labor. This regime not only molds inmates into compliant workers willing and expected to accept any “bad” job upon release but also compels many Americans to work in such jobs under threat of incarceration, all the while bolstering their “exploitability” and socioeconomic marginality.
Contributors include Anne Bonds, Philip Goodman, Amanda Bell Hughett, Caroline M. Parker, Gretchen Purser, Jacqueline Stevens, and Noah D. Zatz.
Rubin, Ashley T. 2021. Rocking Qualitative Social Science: An Irreverent Guide to Rigorous Research. Stanford University Press. [More information here]
Unlike other athletes, the rock climber tends to disregard established norms of style and technique, doing whatever she needs to do to get to the next foothold. This figure provides an apt analogy for the scholar at the center of this unique book. In Rocking Qualitative Social Science, Ashley Rubin provides an entertaining treatise, corrective vision, and rigorously informative guidebook for qualitative research methods that have long been dismissed in deference to traditional scientific methods. Recognizing the steep challenges facing many, especially junior, social science scholars who struggle to adapt their research models to narrowly defined notions of "right," Rubin argues that properly nourished qualitative research can generate important, creative, and even paradigm-shifting insights. This book is designed to help people conduct good qualitative research, talk about their research, and evaluate other scholars' work. Drawing on her own experiences in research and life, Rubin provides tools for qualitative scholars, synthesizes the best advice, and addresses the ubiquitous problem of anxiety in academia. Ultimately, this book argues that rigorous research can be anything but rigid.
Bardelli, Tommaso, Zach Gillespie, and Thuy Linh Tu. October 27, 2021. “Blood from a stone: How New York prisons force people to pay for their own incarceration.” Prison Policy Initiative. [Access it here]
A study by members of the New York University Prison Education Program Research Collective gives important first-hand accounts of the damage done when prisons shift financial costs to incarcerated people.