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Monday, October 31, 2011

Will Dismantling of Mass Incarceration Outlive Economic Crisis?

I'm signing on from Hartford, CT, in the aftermath of a historic October storm to recap last Friday's ABA Legal Educators' Colloquium, held in conjunction with the Association of American Law Schools Criminal Justice Section.  Our theme was "Reducing Reliance on Incarceration."  Speakers included Professors Chris Slobogin, Cecelia Klingele, Shima Baradaran, Roger Fairfax, and Mary Fan, all of whom focused on the potential for the economic crisis to prompt states to adopt policies that reduce reliance on prisons.  (A course that several tough-on-crime states already have adopted, as a recent report by the ACLU summarizes.)  We heard from Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) whose bill to create a National Criminal Justice Commission recently was defeated by just a few votes.  While criminologist Todd Clear suggested that the American change-of-heart regarding mass incarceration would outlive the economic slowdown, Professor Michael Seidman of Georgetown, discussing his recent article on "hyper-incarceration," suggested that America was "addicted" to prisons and that the economic crisis would not affect a lasting turn-around.  The conference surfaced the following question: are current policy changes a short-term trend, or the beginning of a long-term draw-down of the so-called prison-industrial complex, like the arms reduction we have seen since the end of the Cold War?

I'll leave you with that question as I sign-off as a prawfs guest for October 2011 and return to the business of trying to free my car from massive fallen oak branches.  Wishing you all a safe recovery from Winter Storm Arnold, a Happy Halloween, and a productive school year until we meet again!

Posted by GiovannaShay on October 31, 2011 at 11:09 AM | Permalink


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