Never before have I heard so many “I”s, “we”s, and “they”s at a lecture on UCSC’s campus. Last night at the university’s 49th annual Faculty Research Lecture, professor Craig Haney shared his research on the effects of corporeal correctional control in CA prisons, of which 287,444 people were subject to on Dec. 31, 2010 (CDCR, 2011).
To end his lecture, Haney hinted at prison reform, saying it’s happening — be excited. However, he gave little direction as to how to support people in prison or how to access change, like how to call for a prison moratorium in California, for instance. Nor did he even support students on how to research further — the single drive of his lecture. Given that the room could have been filled with aspirant student activists, I had hoped for more.
I’d encourage everyone who attended Haney’s lecture to reach out to someone in prison through letter writing programs like Flying Over Prison Walls Solidarity Project, to call upon our senators to crack down on California’s prison overcrowding (which was mandated by the Federal Court over a decade ago) and/or to support the passing of new laws like SB 224 — a Senate Bill that would establish an Elderly Parole Program, or AB 512 — an Assembly Bill that would extend “good time credits” for people in prison, which would help to de-carcerate people in California who have been given nonsensically long sentences. It’s too bad the Academic Senate didn’t think to make space for questions or responses following Haney’s lecture.
While this academic of many accolades still argued for slow moving, top-down prison reform, I was only reaffirmed in my beliefs of prison abolition. Because, what this professor of psychology did get across was that prisons cause immeasurable amounts of harm — harm that he could only compare to the historical traumas which relate to Hitler’s regime, even though many of us should be able to relate to human suffering outside of this imaginary.
Elizabeth LeJeune is a senior graduating with a degree in feminist studies and community studies. Her interests in prison abolition have been fostered at the nonprofit organization Justice Now, which is based in Oakland, California.