Our Students - Profiles

Kony Kim


Year: Advanced to Candidacy (ABD) - JSP

Email: kony (at) berkeley (dot) edu


In my work as an advocate, educator, and writer/editor, I'm concerned about the rights, freedoms, and stories of students, refugees, and prisoners. I'm also convinced that to some degree, in some sense, nearly everyone has been a student, a refugee, or a prisoner at various points in life, and sometimes all at once. I believe that we all have potential to learn and to grow; that we all seek a safe place to call home; and that we all need both support and accountability to thrive. It's this set of beliefs that has animated my work.


Ph.D. candidate, U.C. Berkeley (expected 2016)
Active member, State Bar of California (admitted 2015)
J.D., U.C. Berkeley School of Law (2012)
M.A., Westminster Seminary (2006)
B.A., Yale University (2003)


Ethics and moral philosophy
Social and political philosophy
Punishment and rehabilitation
Theories of social justice
Disciplinary field: Law and political science (public law)
Topical field: The politics and ethics of mass incarceration


U.C. Regents-Intern Fellowship
Prosser Prize in International Human Rights Law
Foley & Lardner LLP Diversity Scholarship
Human Rights Center Fellowship
Berkeley Law Public Interest Fellowship
U.C. Berkeley Graduate Division Research Grant
U.C. Berkeley Dean's Normative Time Fellowship
UnCommon Law's Post-Conviction Advocate of the Year

Employment Experiences:

Project Attorney, UnCommon Law
Law Clerk, Root & Rebound
Law Clerk and Public Interest Fellow, UnCommon Law
Legal Intern and Human Rights Fellow, Bronx Defenders
Law Clerk and Public Interest Fellow, Human Rights Project
Research Consultant, Red Hook Community Justice Center
Graduate Student Instructor, U.C. Berkeley Legal Studies Program
Graduate Student Researcher, U.C. Berkeley School of Law
Children's Ministry Coordinator, Jubilee Presbyterian Church
Writing Instructor, Elite Educational Institute

Dissertation Abstract:


. . . Why should non-incarcerated Americans be expected to invest in the wellbeing of incarcerated Americans? To date, our public discourse about penal reform has focused on shared pragmatic reasons for facilitating "prisoner reentry," glossing over unresolved philosophical questions that deeply divide us. That is, we've engaged in much data-driven policy talk about the economic benefits of reducing recidivism, but little normative reflection about moral responsibilities held by and toward prisoners who are at once human beings, members of society, convicted offenders, and victims of penal injustice -- and, in many cases, survivors of debilitating poverty as well.
. . . Thus, my first task is to clarify what individual and collective obligations apply in the context of penal injustice: moral responsibilities held by and toward incarcerated Americans, non-incarcerated Americans, and public institutions. My second task is to draw out implications for public policy and discourse: to explain not only what reform measures we should prioritize, but how we should frame and assess them. In particular, I call for measures that provide all incarcerated Americans with opportunities to pursue higher education and to develop redemptive self-narratives; and I argue that we should frame and assess such measures not as cost-saving devices, but rather as efforts to secure human capabilities that are essential to wellbeing and required by justice.
. . . In setting forth these arguments, my purpose is to spark deeper ethical reflection about correctional reform, and specifically to invite engagement with one key normative question: What do we, as a civilized society, owe incarcerated Americans? Ultimately, I wish to underscore that the people confined in our prisons have legitimate moral claims upon us -- insofar as they remain human beings and members of society and, as such, bear rights as well as responsibilities.

Curriculum Vitae
Other Documents