Sunday, February 27th
Keynote Address: A Hip Hop Theory of Justice: Race and the American Justice System
Paul Butler, Professor of Law, George Washington University
7 pm, McCullough Social Space

Monday, February 28th
Redefining Public Defense: Holistic Legal Representation and Community Justice
Robin Steinberg, Founder and Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders
4:30 pm, MBH 220

Prajna Meditation Club hosts a screening of The Dhamma Brothers
8:00pm, BiHall 220

Tuesday, March 1st
Structure and Reform in the US Prison System
4:30 pm, MBH 220

Screening: What I Want My Words to Do To You (80 minutes) hosted by The Women’s & Gender Studies Program, Chellis House-Women’s Resource Center
7:30 pm, MBH 216

Wednesday, March 2nd
Migrant Realities: Perspectives on Immigration and Justice
7 pm, MBH 216
Rebecca Turner
Michelle Jenness
Lise Nelson

Thursday, March 3rd
Behind Bars: the Story from the Outside and Within
4:30, MBH 220
Eddie Ellis

Expressions of the Justice System (Co-sponsored by the Verbal Onslaught)
9 pm, The Gamut Room

Friday, March 4th
Continuing the Conversation at Middlebury: What You Can Do
Faculty/Student Panel
12:30-2 pm, Axinn 229

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Upcoming Justice Events at Middlebury

Be sure to check out these really great upcoming events dealing with many of the issues examined through the symposium! This is an incredible opportunity to learn more about alternatives to the policing, surveillance, and punishment model of justice we've become adjusted to, and broaden Middlebury's discourse on justice issues.

Trans/Immigration and Prison Abolition
March 21 // 7:00 pm // Hillcrest 103 (Orchard)

In this lecture, Owen Daniel-McCarter will discuss the particular legal issues faced by transgender immigrants of color in the U.S., including an analysis of how current immigration policies disproportionately bar trans people of color from gaining citizenship, and how immigrant detainment practices uphold systems of misogynist, racist, homophobic, and transphobic violence. The lecture will address why these struggles are of concern to the Prison Abolition and Transformative Justice movements, and will conclude by outlining next steps that activists can take in dismantling interlocking systems of oppression. Owen-Daniel McCarter is the founding collective member and project attorney for the Transformative Justice Law Project (TJLP) in Chicago, which provides free, holistic legal services to poor transgender people of color targeted by the legal system throughout Illinois. Learn more here

Resisting the State: Transforming Justice
March 22 // 4:30 pm // Hillcrest 103 (Orchard)

In this workshop, Owen Daniel-McCarter and Baylie Roth '9.5 will lead a discussion of how state-sponsored systems of control negatively effect and create divisions among oppressed communities, including people of color, folks with disabilities, immigrants, women, poor people, and transgender people. We will question whether current national legal battles demanding things like hate crimes legislation, marriage recognition, and decriminalization of queer sex are harmful to our communities. The workshop will conclude with collective dreaming about what lessons can be shared among activists organizing both on and off college campuses, and how we can transform justice, empower disempowered communities, and push for liberation from institutional systems of control over our bodies. Owen-Daniel McCarter is the founding collective member and project attorney for the Transformative Justice Law Project (TJLP) in Chicago, which provides free, holistic legal services to poor transgender people of color targeted by the legal system throughout Illinois. Learn more here

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Alternatives to Juvenile Incarceration

Juvenile incarceration has proven to be a tricky matter for the justice system. As symposium speakers Juliana Ratner (of the Free Minds Book Club) and John Perry (former Director of Planning for the VT State Department of Corrections) discussed this past Tuesday, incarceration of our youth at an early age often interrupts the normal life course development, schooling, and hopes for employment in adulthood. Most states set the age of adult prosecution around 16, which is now being questioned as too young for defendants to actually be making the decisions expected of an adult- Vermont, however, despite its liberal tendencies, legally prosecutes anyone over age 10 as an adult. While Vermont may continue to prosecute 10 year olds as adults, many states are reconsidering this; check out this NYT article on states prosecuting fewer teenagers in adult courts for more details on the developments in different states.

If you want to get involved, also be sure to check out the Free Minds Book Club writing blog, where young men who have been incarcerated in the DC prison system post their poetry and writing. They love getting feedback and comments, so you're definitely encouraged to comment or write to them!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Incarceration and Re-entry: The Inside Story

There are now over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States. While blacks represent about 12% of the total US population, they make up 39% of the prison population. The statistical evidence for the disproportionate incarceration of America's black population is undeniable, yet the majority of Americans rarely question this reality and take action to amend this disparity.

However, beyond the statistics, there are people, faces, families, and stories behind each of those 2 million inmates. Please join us on Thursday March 3 to hear Eddie Ellis, a former prisoner and prison rights activist, speak about his experience serving a 15 year sentence and his work in creating a model for re-entry for former inmates re-entering society. Check out this Washington Post article on Eddie and his re-entry handbook, and come with lots of questions tomorrow! Also, be sure to come to the Gamut Room at 9 pm for a Verbal Onslaught event: "Expressions of the Justice System." Everyone is welcome to share their justice-related poetry or spoken word!

Eddie Ellis, "The Story from the Outside and Within"
Thursday March 3, 4:30 pm BiHall 220

Expressions of the Justice System with Verbal Onslaught
featuring Eddie Ellis
Thursday March 3, 9 pm Gamut Room 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Immigration and a Movement Toward Holistic Public Defense

Robin Steinberg, founder and executive director of The Bronx Defenders, had a vision fifteen years ago that the people of the Bronx- especially low-income clients who could not afford private lawyers- deserved better, more holistic legal representation. Rather than just determining the facts of the crime, she sought to redefine the whole paradigm of criminal public defense, by working with clients on their housing, family support, and education to best represent not only their criminal case but provide opportunities for a better future outside the justice system. In 1997, Steinberg made this vision a reality, with the founding of The Bronx Defenders, a public defense organization that aims to do just that.

Now, a decade and a half later, the court ruling Padilla v. Kentucky has made it obligatory for all lawyers to adequately advise their clients on the potential immigration consequences of a plea- which is especially significant in the push towards a more holistic system of public legal representation. For example, a marijuana violation is usually one of the less consequential pleas a defendant can take, and is supposed to disappear from one's record after a year; however, for a someone who isn't a US citizen (even if they are documented), a marijuana plea could lead to deportation.

Check out Steinberg's Huff Post article, "Supreme Court Ruling Speaks of a New Kind of Public Defense,"for a deeper analysis of what Padilla v. Kentucky means for both immigration law and public defense- and be sure to come to Robin Steinberg's talk on "Redefining Public Defense" Monday Feb. 28th at 4:30 in BiHall 220!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jury Nullification: Political Advocacy vs. Lawlessness

Jury nullification describes the process in which members of the jury disregard either the instructions of the judge or the evidence presented in order to reach a verdict reflective of their own consciences. This seemingly technical process has become a controversial form of political advocacy that some have recognized as an effective mechanism for addressing change through the legal system. Recently, a vocal advocate of jury nullification was indicted for interference with the jury decision making process, as covered by the New York Times here. While grounded in the technicalities of the court, jury nullification raises some important questions about how jurors should be making their decisions and what role political advocacy has in the court room.

Symposium keynote speaker Paul Butler has wrote extensively on the concept of race-based jury nullification. To find out more about Professor Butler's "Martin Luther King jurors" before his talk on Sunday, check out his interview with NPR, his Huffington Post article "My Jury Service to America," or his book Let's Get Free, which is on display in the Davis Family Library lobby.

Paul Butler's keynote address, "A Hip Hop Theory of Justice: Race and the American Justice System," will take place at McCullough Social Space at 7 pm on Sunday February 27th and is open to the public.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Prisoners of the Census: Voting Rights and Incarceration in the US

Prison-based gerrymandering is the practice of counting prisoners as residents of a particular district, thereby increasing the district's population with non-voters when assigning political apportionment. This practice is particularly problematic in drawing political power and resources away from already under-represented urban areas that prisoners often come from, and re-allocating it to rural districts containing large prisons, despite the fact that prisoners are generally denied the right to vote. This often results in increased political power and resources (ie. funding for education, infrastructure, and other public services) being allocated to conservative rural districts, even though the prisoner "residents" usually come from and return to urban areas.

This practice has attracted attention from the media recently, spurred by former New York Governor David Patterson signing legislation banning prison-based gerrymandering in New York, a policy which the New York Times editorial, "An End to Prison Gerrymandering," says "deserves to be emulated all across the country." For more information on prison-based gerrymandering in practice and potential solutions, check out the important research being conducted by the Prison Policy Initiative.

And be sure to come to the "Structure and Reform in the US Prison System" symposium talk on Tuesday March 1st at 4:30 pm in Bicentennial Hall 219 with John Perry, former Director of Planning for the Vermont State Prison system for 30 years, and Juliana Ratner, program director of a non-profit focused on alternative prison reform. Learn lots and ask hard questions!

And lastly, a fun, prison-related fact: Vermont and Maine are the only two states in the US that allow prisoners to vote while in prison, which is kind of a big deal, considering 14 states ban anyone with a felony conviction from voting for life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stop-and-Frisks: Bias and Police Profiling in NYC

Stop-and-frisks, in which officers stop passerby they believe to look "suspicious" and conduct a questioning and pat-down, have become an important part of policing in New York City over the past few years. While the NYPD argues that frisks have resulted in significant decreases in crime, the tactics used in determining what constitutes "suspicious" have become controversial. In certain targeted areas of the city, such as Brownsville, Brooklyn, there are 93 stops for every 100 residents annually. The rate of stop-and-frisks is even higher for black males between 15-34, who are stopped an average of 5 times a year in Brownsville, often at their own residences. While stop-and-frisks may lead to some additional arrests, the effects this practice has on the relationship between the community and the police are often more significant than the short-term results (ie. the 25 guns recovered from over 50,000 stops in 2006). Because many of the stop-and-frisks take place in and around the projects, many residents are profiled purely based on where they live.

Check out this great, comprehensive New York Times article on stop-and-frisks in NYC in recent years, and be sure to explore astounding statistics on the interactive map.

What do you think about stop-and-frisk policing? Have you ever been stopped-and-frisked? How does your community, race, or socioeconomic status shape your perspective on police profiling?

Mapping Justice and Inequality in the US

A picture speaks a thousand words- or in this case, a map. There are now a few groups that have been producing great resources on the geography of incarceration and inequality in the American justice system. From a spatial perspective, the geographic divisions in who goes to jail and who doesn't becomes much more tangible- for the most part, incarceration is clustered in poor, often minority neighborhoods. Check out these maps created by the Justice Mapping Center and the Justice Atlas of Sentencing and Corrections to see some alarming patterns of incarceration across the US.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Immigration Trends Across the US

Immigration legislation is a hot issue, at both the state and federal levels. Despite the strong federal immigration policy in the US, distinctions in the immigrant experience in different states have become more and more apparent- for example, Arizona's strict SB1070 legislation vs. anti-race based profiling in Middlebury. Check out the Migration Policy Institute's cross-section of immigration trends across the US, including a surprising statistic on our own state of Vermont. 

States vary in the share of naturalized US citizens among their immigrants. Out of immigrants in Hawaii and Vermont, 57 percent were US citizens by naturalization, compared to less than 31 percent in new immigrant-destination states such as ArkansasNorth CarolinaMississippiAlabama, and Nebraska.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Race and the American Justice System

While the allegation that our justice system is racist might seem to be a controversial generalization, take a minute to examine some of these very real statistics on race and incarceration in the US. In this Huffington Post article, Bill Quigley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, outlines some of the major debates surrounding race and the justice system, such as the extensive sentences for non-violent drug crimes that affect a disproportionate number of blacks in the US (for more on this, see the NPR This American Life story on drug sentencing we posted earlier).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paul Butler on NPR: Hip Hop Justice

Check out this short NPR clip of symposium keynote speaker Paul Butler discussing a few of his favorite hip hop songs and how they relate to inequalities in the American justice system and illuminate the structural violence in our communities.

Paul Butler's Keynote Speech will be on Sunday February 27th in McCullough at 7 pm.