From Georgia to Guantanamo: Understanding America's Incarceration Addiction & Its Effect on Communities

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University of North Carolina School of Law

February 18, 2006

Conference Participants

Human Rights and Prisons: The Global and the Local

Prisoners' rights and the treatment provided to incarcerated individuals are issues increasingly discussed within a human rights framework. While domestic prisons and extraterritorial prisons are usually discussed in different contexts, this break-out session will explore whether this dichotomy is, in fact, a false one. This session will review and compare domestic and international practices as they relate to prisoners' rights and will discuss the manner in which international human rights law can be applied to domestic prisons and in domestic courts.

We will examine two specific issues that address basic human rights issues. The first issue relates to the very use of Guantanamo by the U.S. government, the problem of accessibility by attorneys to their clients who are prisoners there, the treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, and U.S. accountability for alleged human rights violations there.

The second issue to be explored relates to transgender prisoners' rights. This will include an overview of the right to be housed in a facility consistent with one's gender identity and protections available to transgender prisoners who are victims of violence in prisons.

The goal of this session is to discuss these rights within the framework of fundamental human rights.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Shannon Minter
  • Jumana Musa
  • Steven Watt

The Cycle Continues: The Impact of Prisons on Youth, Family and Community

It is undisputed that the prison experience has tremendous consequences, not just for the prisoner, but for his or her community at large. This session will examine the effects that incarceration has on youth, families of prisoners, and the communities from which these prisoners come.

We will look at the impacts from a public health perspective, including an analysis of the reintegration of prisoners into their communities and the ability of those with HIV/AIDS to access health care once released from prison.

This session will also discuss the pathwards to prison and how the prison experience sets in motion a cyclic phenomenon in which rates of recidivism are higher in certain communities. In this context, we will examine how the prison experience can devastate the entire infrastructure of families and communities.

The final issue to be examined concerns the counting of prisoners as residents in mostly rural towns for census purposes and its impact on communities in terms of the effects on reapportionment of political representatives and the re-drawing of state legislative boundaries.

Speakers will provide suggested methods aimed at preventing such devastation and means by which communities can empower themselves to resist the destructive force of the prison experience.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Andrew Kaplan
  • Peter Wagner
  • Marsha Weissman

All Sentences are LIFE sentences: post-prison sanctions and barriers to re-entry

The punishment for a commission of a crime often goes beyond the traditional "years served." Instead, prisoners who are released are often faced with punitive sanctions for the remainder of their lives. The sanctions can be viewed as two-fold: first in the actual sentence as ordered by a judge, and second in the obstacles imposed by state and federal governments upon re-entry to society. The latter obstacles, including felon disenfranchisement, inability to procure federal student loans, disqualification from certain welfare benefits, and inability to obtain employment are often left out of mainstream discourse.

This session will focus on this secondary set of sanctions. Specifically, we will examine the extent to which released prisoners face obstacles upon release to society. Included in this discussion will be an analysis of state-imposed and federally-imposed barriers to re-entry. Finally, this session will address implications of such barriers upon the released prisoner's ability to reintegrate and will provide recommendations and strategies with the goals of effecting more successful re-entry.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Anita Earls
  • Debbie Mukumal

Prisons- Profits and Power: Who Gains?

The privatization of the domestic prison system is a trend that has increased dramatically in the past decade. The rise of the prison industrial complex feeds local and national economies through job creation and use of prisoners as laborers. Privatization generates financial profits for some, but exacts non-financial costs from others such as exploitation of labor and shifting of power away from the communities from which the prisoners come. This session will examine the costs and benefits that result when federal and state responsibility shifts to corporations in the context of competing views of the prison industrial complex: an endeavor designed to generate profits versus one designed to shift power.

Within the general framework of analyzing for-profit prisons, panelists will focus on two specific sub-issues. The first relates to the disproportionate impact of privatization on African American men. The second issue that will be discussed is the creation and use of private immigrant detention centers, with specific examination of the Texas "Laredo Superjail."

Confirmed Speakers

  • Silky Shah
  • Earl Smith
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106
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