2019 Symposium

“Mass Incarceration as a Chronic Condition: Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Treatment.”

Monday, November 18, 2019

University of Minnesota Law School, Room 25

Event description:

Mass incarceration is a stubborn facet of life and politics in America. The 2019 Symposium assembles scholars with wide-ranging specialties that will examine mass incarceration as described in Franklin Zimring’s forthcoming book, “The Insidious Momentum of Mass Incarceration.” Zimring, whose earlier work has created and defined the study of mass incarceration, argues, in his new book, that mass incarceration carries a great deal of built-in “momentum,” and will continue unless there are paradigm shifts in state and federal sentencing systems. It also demonstrates the significant impact that the new status quo of mass incarceration has had, and will continue to have, on society. Zimring offers recommendations on two levels: (1) What must be done if present American incarceration rates do not significantly drop in the coming years? (2) What are the most promising ways to break the persistence of mass incarceration, and implement a serious deincarceration agenda in America?

The discussions in the symposium will use Franklin Zimring’s forthcoming book, The Insidious Momentum of Mass Incarceration, as a point of departure. While cognizant of how governments and institutions have become entangled with the mass incarceration status quo, Zimring alternatively considers an incentives-based model called “realignment,” pioneered by California, in which local governments are given financial accountability for those they send to state prisons rather than externalizing those costs. Second, he highlights the role that stronger sentencing commissions, such as Minnesota’s, can play in changing the sentencing framework from within the adversarial system. Third, he advocates an increase in the power of state parole boards to release prisoners before they have served their maximum terms.

Speakers and topics:

Keynote speaker
Rachel E. Barkow, Vice Dean and Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy and Faculty Director for the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at NYU School of Law
Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration
This talk will highlight the political institutional dynamics that prompted and maintain mass incarceration. It will draw lessons from Barkow’s book, Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration, and Frank Zimring’s powerhouse new book, The Insidious Momentum of Mass Incarceration. After highlighting the institutional forces that created the large sweep of criminalization, incarceration, and supervision that describes American penal policy today, this talk will explore the best path forward for reversing course, again drawing lessons from the two books.

Alfred Blumstein, J. Eric Jonsson Professor of Urban Systems and Operations Research Emeritus, Former Dean (1985-1993) of the H. John Heinz III College of Information Systems and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
How and to What Extent Can the US Reverse the Tremendous Growth in Its Incarceration Rate?
After a fifty-year period of striking stability in its incarceration rate at 110 per hundred thousand, the United States increased that rate by almost 500 percent and has since reduced it slowly by only about 10 percent since the peak in the last 10 – 20 years. What are some approaches to do better and how feasible will they be?

Jessica Eaglin, Associate Professor of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
The Perils of Old and New: Technical Sentencing Reforms in Response to Mass Incarceration
This talk will examine the ongoing debates about actuarial risk assessment tools as sentencing reform in the context of larger efforts to address the pressures of mass incarceration in the United States. Eaglin will consider both the promise and peril of this reform in light of Franklin Zimring’s proposed recommendations for reform.

Richard S. Frase, Benjamin N. Berger Professor of Criminal Law, University of Minnesota Law School
Can Sentencing Guidelines Commissions Help States Substantially Reduce Mass Incarceration?Professor Zimring argues that sentencing guidelines commissions could, if given additional powers, help states substantially reduce their bloated prison populations. This paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of this proposal, while also highlighting the ways in which such commissions are already helping some states limit the use of imprisonment.

John Pfaff, Professor of Law, Fordham University, Visiting Professor, Columbia Law School
Pfaff will address the role of prosecutors in the context of Zimring’s book. Lecture title and details to follow.

Kevin Reitz, James Annenberg La Vea Land Grant Chair in Criminal Procedure Law, University of Minnesota Law School
Reitz will address release policy and practice in the context of Zimring’s book. Lecture title and details to follow.

Franklin Zimring, William G. Simon Professor of Law, Boalt Hall School of Law at University of California, Berkeley
Frank Zimring Responds
Zimring’s remarks will reconsider any major elements in the book’s approach that Symposium authors call into question. I will then give my view of whether an din what respect these criticisms alter the policy conclusions of the volume.

More about our keynote speaker, Rachel E. Barkow: Rachel E. Barkow’s scholarship and practice has thrived at the intersection of administrative law, constitutional law, and criminal justice. She has authored more than 20 articles, co-authored a prominent criminal law casebook, and released a book this spring, Prisoners of Politics, about breaking the cycle of mass incarceration through the application of administrative law concepts. She received the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Podell Distinguished Teaching Award at NYU School of Law in 2013 and 2007, respectively, serves on the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Policy Advisory Panel and the United States Sentencing Commission, and co-founded a clemency resource center that obtained 96 sentence commutations pursuant to President Obama’s clemency initiative. She attended Harvard Law School, where she received the Sears Prize, and clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the D.C. Circuit and Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court. To see her full biography and links to her publications, please visit her faculty page at NYU School of Law.

Symposium scholarship in vol. 104, issue 6:

Speakers have the opportunity to publish an article related to their remarks in Minnesota Law Review’s sixth issue in volume 104. The issue will be accessible online from the Minnesota Law Review homepage by June, 2020. If you are unable to attend the Symposium, please enjoy this digital access to its ideas and conversations.

Please register here.

CLE credits expected. Lunch will be provided to all attendees.

Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice will host a panel over the lunch hour applying the ideas discussed throughout the day to the Minnesota criminal justice system. Please check back for more updates on local speakers.