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The MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions is awarded to the Human Rights Center and eight other extraordinary organizations during a ceremony in Chicago this summer. (Pictured from left to right: Stephen Smith Cody, Julie Freccero, Alexa Koenig, Keith Hiatt, and Kim Thuy Seelinger.) 

News and Events

‘The [in]Justice System: A Human Rights Series on California Prisons’ kicks off in October

prisoner drawing

United States prisons and jails—incarcerating 25 percent of all prisoners in the world—are the subject of unprecedented public attention. Mass incarceration, racial and economic inequity, violence against prisoners, and medical and mental health neglect now receive critical scrutiny after years in the shadows. President Obama recently became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. State legislatures are working to cut prison populations, and once unthinkable bipartisan coalitions are tackling criminal justice reform. A recent landmark legal agreement in California will establish some limits on solitary confinement. Even with this new attention and an appetite for change, no major reforms have been implemented.

With UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Program, the Social Science Matrix, and Townsend Center for the Humanities, we are pleased to present a 2015-16 event series focused on California prisons. 

The first event—The Life Cycle of the Problem—will be held on October 21, 4:30 to 6 pm at Barrows Hall, 8th floor, Social Science Matrix. For more information about this event or the series, visit The [in]Justice System or contact us at or 510.642.0965. 


New research on sexual violence released at Missing Peace workshop in Uganda

The Human Rights Center’s Sexual Violence Program launched The Long Road: Accountability for Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings at the Missing Peace Practitioners’ Workshop  in Kampala on August 26. More than 80 participants from Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo at #MissingPeaceKampala discussed the findings and other key concerns related to ending sexual violence during and after armed conflicts.
Read an article about the study by The Guardian’s Liz Ford and Amaka Apara. 
Read the Human Rights Center’s blog about the Missing Peace workshop in Kampala. 


Reiter and Koenig break ground with Extreme Punishment—a new book on prisons 

Extreme Punishment (Reiter and Koenig, 2015)

Extreme Punishment—a new book from Palgrave edited by HRC Executive Director Alexa Koenig and UC Irvine Professor Keramet Reiter— investigates the physical architecture, legal administration, and the lived experience of 21st-century prisoners, including the mentally ill, non-citizen immigrants, and enemy combatants in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. Contributors address the question: How do punishers exert power, and how do the punished experience that power?

“Groundbreaking in its research and documentation, this bracing collection forces us to think again–and in unexpected ways– about how law abets and sustains a global network of military, immigration, and penal polices, unprecedented in their severity and reach,” says  says Vanderbilt University Professor Colin Dayan about Extreme Punishment.

More about Extreme Punishment. 

Human Rights Center wins MacArthur award

Clyde Snow and Judge.x rayThe Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law is one of nine nonprofit organizations around the world to receive the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today.

Known for its “genius awards” to individuals, the MacArthur Foundation also honors extraordinary organizations—in this case, recognizing the Human Rights Center’s investigations and research on war crimes and human rights abuses in more than a dozen countries and spotlighting the Center’s recent work on wartime sexual violence. MacArthur will award the Center $1 million to establish an endowment and expand its Sexual Violence Program.

“The Human Rights Center combines rigorous, leading-edge scientific research with on-the-ground work, yielding valuable contributions to our understanding of rights’ violations and our collective commitment to hold perpetrators accountable,” said MacArthur Vice President Elspeth Revere, who leads the awards program. “MacArthur applauds the Human Rights Center’s creativity and effectiveness, and we hope this recognition and investment will help sustain its work and expand its impact.”

Watch a video about the Human Rights Center
Read a press release about the award