The [in]Justice System: A Human Rights Series on California Prisons


The [in]Justice System: A Human Rights Series on California Prisons

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.

UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Program and the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law, with the generous support of the Townsend Center for the Humanities and Social Science Matrix, presented a 2015-16 event series focused on California prisons. This series examined conditions, policies, and prospects for change within a national and international context. Speakers included scholars, advocates, international practitioners, and formerly incarcerated people. The events were free and open to the public.

Keynote on Mass Incarceration with Ben Jealous, Former NAACP President (May. 3, 2016)

As the keynote presentation for “The [in]Justice System,” UC Berkeley welcomed Benjamin Todd Jealous, former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Jealous is currently a Partner at Kapor Capital, where he invests in seed-stage startup companies that use technology to solve social problems.

Incarceration, Education, and Reentry: Reversing the School-to-Prison Pipeline (Feb. 8, 2016)

The equation is simple: prison and post-prison education = lower recidivism. How and why are these programs working and why isn’t prison education a top priority? This second event in the series featured panelists: Simon Woodard, Program Coordinator of Prison University Project; Ron Moss, Executive Director of the Gamble Institute Street Scholars Peer-Mentoring Program; Violeta Alvarez, Board Member of Underground Scholars Initiative and Instructor in the Teach in Prison DeCal; Danny Murillo, Program Analyst of Vera Institute of Justice and NJ-STEP Mountainview Program at Rutgers University, and John Gardner Fellow at the Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley. The discussion was moderated by Professor Emerita Patricia Hilden, Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley.

The Life Cycle of the Problem (Oct. 21, 2015)

Our first event in The [in]Justice System series—The Life Cycle of the Problem—featured Jonathan Simon, UC Berkeley Professor of Law, and author of Mass Incarceration on Trial; Keramet Reiter, UC Irvine Professor of Law and Society and co-editor of Extreme Punishment; Hernán Reyes, former Medical Coordinator of Health in Detention at International Committee of the Red Cross; and Azadeh Zohrabi, National Campaigner for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Panelists discussed the school-to-prison pipeline, race and poverty, mental health, health care, solitary confinement, and more.