Fellows CLE Seminar Focuses on Mass Incarceration in America
August 27, 2012, ABF news
From left to right: panelist Maria Sandoval, Traci Burch, and John Hagan at the podium
The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation hosted a seminar titled “Mass Incarceration in America: Social and Political Consequences” during the ABA Annual Meeting on August 4, 2012. Moderated by Stephen Saltzburg of the ABA House of Delegates’ Criminal Justice Section, the panel featured presentations from ABF Research Professors Traci Burch and John Hagan, as well as from a group of distinguished panelists: attorney Maria Sandoval, attorney Ronald Marmer, and Professor Becky Pettit of the University of Washington.
Hagan’s presentation advocated for a “human rights approach” in addressing the dramatic increase in the United States prison population since the early 1970s. He discussed Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Brown v. Plata, which mandated a reduction in California’s prison population by 46,000 inmates. The opinion maintained that prison overcrowding had created conditions inconsistent with the principles of the Eighth Amendment against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
To support this human rights approach, Hagan cited inhumane prison conditions, such as the use of “dry cells” without running water and the disproportionate effects of incarceration on minority communities. He also presented the results of an earlier longitudinal study with Holly Foster (Law and Society Review 46:1), which determined the dismal effects of parental imprisonment, especially of the mother, on college graduation rates.
Traci Burch at the podium
Like Hagan, Burch also pointed to the negative effects of mass incarceration on children and families, pointing to the “consequences for the people left behind.” She illustrated how “informal social control,” such as community-initiated surveillance and punishment, decreases within neighborhoods with high rates of incarceration. Marriage rates also decrease in this setting as marriageable men are removed from the community and women become reluctant to marry the fathers of their children.
Burch also presented research on how prisons contribute to the spread of infectious diseases back to the community and called for policy changes to reduce the spread of diseases within the prison population.
Interested parties may access the recording of Professors Hagan and Burch’s presentations, their PowerPoint slides, and photos of the event at the indicated links.
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