ISPS Conference: Detaining Democracy? Criminal Justice and American Civic Life, Nov 8-9, 2012

About the conference: The ideal of American democracy envisions an engaged, informed citizenry that possesses the knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills, and traits of character needed to make civic life flourish.  The goal of this conference is to examine how increasing contact with criminal justice institutions—from prisons and jail to probation, parole, and police officers—shapes American civic life. To this end, we are seeking to bring together internationally recognized scholars from political science, sociology, economics, public policy, education, and law. This conference assembles a series of empirical articles that will test the possibly countervailing positive and negative effects of imprisonment on these essential traits, focusing on the direct effects of imprisonment on the individuals who cycle through the penal system and the indirect effects of neighborhood-level incarceration rates and the incarceration of a family member. Crucially, doing so greatly extends the literature on the political consequences of mass imprisonment by considering long-term effects rather than the short-term ones that have to date received the majority of the attention. Furthermore, by simultaneously making these connections and testing each of these mechanisms empirically, we yield insight not only into the theoretical paths that are most compelling but also those which are empirically verified. Faculty Organizers: Jacob Hacker, Political Science and Director of ISPS Vesla Weaver, Political Science and African American Studies Christopher Wildeman, Sociology