Jonathan Simon - November 13, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014|Yoshihiro Uchida Hall 124|4-6pm
Jonathan Simon PhD, JD, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law
Director, Center for the Study of Law and Society
University of California Berkeley

Download a copy of the event flyer (PDF)

Mass Incarceration on Trial: Courts and the Future of American Prisons

This book examines a series of landmark decisions about prison conditions, culminating in the 2011 Supreme Court case Brown v. Plata, which declared conditions in California prisons unconstitutional and imposed a population cap on the state prison system. Simon, the Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, shows that these decisions have opened an unexpected escape route from the trap of "tough on crime" politics that have turned California into the country's largest jailor.

For nearly forty years, the United States has been gripped by policies that have placed more than 2.5 million Americans in jails and prisons designed to hold a fraction of that number of inmates. Our prisons are not only vast and overcrowded, they are degrading—relying on racist gangs, lockdowns, and Supermax-style segregation units to maintain a tenuous order. In short, mass incarceration has proven to be a fiscal and penological disaster. A landmark 2011 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Plata, has opened an unexpected escape route from this trap of “tough on crime” politics and points toward values that could restore legitimate order to American prisons and ultimately lead to the dismantling of “mass incarceration.” Berkeley law professor Jonathan Simon—an internationally renowned critic of mass incarceration and the war on crime—argues that, much like the epic school segregation cases of the last century, this new case represents a major breakthrough in jurisprudence. Exposing the priority of politics over rational penal policy—and debunking the premise that these policies are necessary for public safety—this perceptive and groundbreaking book urges us to seize the opportunity to replace mass incarceration with a system anchored in the preservation of human dignity.



Jonathan Simon is the Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Simon teaches courses on criminal law, criminal justice, law and culture, risk and the law, and socio-legal studies. His scholarship concerns the role of criminal justice and punishment in modern societies, insurance and other contemporary practices of governing risk, the cultural lives of law, and the intellectual history of law and the social sciences. Simon is a faculty associate of the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice. Simon is a member of the Law & Society Association where he has served on the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee. He is also a member of the American Society of Criminology and the American Sociological Association. Simon has served as co-editor-in-chief and serves as an editorial board member of Punishment & Society and has served as an associate editor of Law & Society Review.

  From left to right: Jonathan Simon, Dr. Edith Kinney, Dr. Alessandro De Giorgi, Elliott Currie, Mohamed Shehk