Student concerns over U.S. incarceration rate inspires lecture series

Connecticut College faculty and guest speakers will explore the realities of today’s mass incarceration in the United States in a series of talks taking place during the spring semester. The Incarcerated America Lecture Series arose after students expressed concern about a particularly grim statistic.

“The United States leads the world in incarceration rates,” explained Ana Lilia Campos Manzo, assistant professor of sociology and one of the series’ organizers. “That fact has come up in many classrooms on campus, and our students want to continue the conversation. So our faculty and other noted scholars will address this mass incarceration era from their respective disciplines. In doing so, this lecture series explores hyper-incarceration, gender, prison environments, immigration, race and ethnicity, prison art, and rehabilitation.”

All the events in the Incarcerated America Lecture Series will take place in the Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room in Shain Library. They are free and open to the public.

“Women in America’s First Prisons”
Thursday, March 27
4:30 p.m.
Jen Manion, Associate Professor of History, Connecticut College
Gender was a central organizing force in the nation's first penitentiary. This talk will explore the sexual division of labor and the regulation of sexual intimacies that lie at the heart of punishment, positioning the penitentiary as a driving force behind a conservative, backward-looking heterosexual political economy that was upended decades earlier by the harsh realities of war, slavery, servitude and urban poverty.

“Environmental Psychology and Prison Design”
Tuesday, April 1
4:30 p.m.
Ann S. Devlin, May Buckley Sadowski '19 Professor of Psychology, Connecticut College
Using visual images from prisons throughout the United States, this presentation will show how prison design affects inmate and staff behavior. The presentation will provide a historical perspective on models of prison design, concentrating on what are known as third-generation models and direct supervision.

“Unauthorized Immigration, Arrests, Detention and Deportation”
Friday, April 11
4:30 p.m.
Robert LeRoux Hernandez, Lecturer in the Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies, College of the Holy Cross
The lecture will provide an overview of “legal status” and its role in the criminalization of immigration. Hernandez explores the Secure Communities Program, which seeks to integrate local, state and federal criminal justice resources to enforce immigration laws. He will also examine for-profit prisons and their role in the immigration reform debate, and consider “due process” and “equal protection” as they apply to the undocumented.

“Race/Ethnicity and Gender in Incarcerated America”
Friday, April 18
4:30 p.m.
Ana Campos-Holland, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Connecticut College
Although all individuals are subject to social control, minority groups are disproportionally subject to formal social control in American society. The War on Drugs steered the United States into its mass incarceration era, with 716 incarcerated individuals per every 100,000 people. Within this punitive society, incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment. For every white/Caucasian inmate, there are 2.5 Latino inmates and 5.8 African-American inmates. And the incarceration of women has increased 646 percent in the past decade, with African-American women facing the highest rates. During this presentation, Campos-Holland will explore America’s unequal use of incarceration and its consequences for African Americans, Latinos and women.

“Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America”
Wednesday, April 23
4:30 p.m.
Phyllis Kornfeld, Artist, Teacher and Prisoner Advocate
This talk explores the range of art recently created in penitentiaries, from mainstream prison art — with its reliance on tattoo imagery — to “folk arts” like soap-carving, and unveils some powerful drawings and paintings by outstanding individual artists. Kornfeld will share the voices of men and women in institutions from county jail to death row, who are candid and insightful about their lives, their art and their imprisonment.

“Drugs, Rehabilitation and Incarceration”
Tuesday, April 29
4:30 p.m.
Taleb Khairallah, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Connecticut College
High incarceration rates in the United States have held constant for many years. It has been proposed that this is at least partially due to mandatory sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. This presentation will examine the impact of the U.S. drug policy on incarceration, rehabilitation and public health. Scientific findings and comparative analyses will be used to propose alternative models that address disparities.

The Incarcerated America Lecture Series is sponsored by the Joseph Henry Seldon Lectureship Fund, the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, and the departments of art history, government, history, psychology and sociology, and the architectural studies program. For more information, contact Campos-Holland at or 860-439-2006.

March 5, 2014