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Tracing the violence

Hosted on April 12-13, this year’s conference will assess the mainstream criminal justice reform movement’s tendency to focus only on non-violent and drug offenses, often excluding those convicted of violent and sexual offenses from the movement. However, over 900,000 people in prisons and jails—over 40% of all incarcerated people, and 55% of those held in state prisons—are there for “violent” offenses. Further, though prison populations have declined slightly in recent years as some convicted of drug offenses have been released, racial disparities in the prison system have remained largely unchanged.

This conference seeks to understand how and why a massive segment of the incarcerated population is left out of the movement of reform—and sometimes even further vilified by reformers—and how we can build an inclusive and transformative movement. We will seek to understand where violence originates, recognizing that policing and prisons are themselves sources of violence, and that many people convicted of violent offenses have themselves faced serious violence as result of intersecting marginalized identities.

Some questions we will explore are: What is “violent crime,” and how do we (mis)understand it? What are the consequences of a reform movement that most often achieves reforms that are “only for non-violent offenders”? What are possible non-carceral responses to violence? How do we address interpersonal and gendered violence while avoiding carceral feminism in the #MeToo era? How does a focus on individual acts of violence obscure structural violence and the violence of the penal system itself?

Recognizing that harm is something to take immensely seriously, our goals for the conference are to:

  • trace the violence present in communities back to its structural forces through panels and plenaries.

  • learn how to address harm and prevent violence through non-carceral means through workshops.

  • forge a robust and inclusive student and activist movement through workshops and trainings.