JLI staff members Abbie Hanson and Jen Davison recently interviewed Professor Susanna Blumenthal in a conversation about COVID-19’s effects on inmate rights and the prison/jail system. Professor Blumenthal co-directs the Program in Law and History at the University of Minnesota and she is an expert in criminal law. Professor Blumenthal’s research and writing focuses on the historical relationship between law and the human sciences. In this discussion, the group highlights the challenges of containing a virus in inherently constrained spaces, the damaging results on inmate rights, and how groups are working to ensure that incarcerated individuals receive adequate protection during a pandemic.
The purpose of punishment is not served when the criminal justice system prosecutes poor, and often undereducated, parents for the unintended deaths of their children. Punishment as retribution is excessive for an already grieving parent, and an act cannot be deterred, either specifically to the offender or generally to society, if it was unintended in the first place. Finally, incapacitating parents by way of imprisonment does not ultimately serve the social good because their imprisonment sets up their surviving children for increased risk factors. Punishing a parent who has already received the worst punishment of all—loss of a child—cannot be justified.
by Maria Warhol
As the 2016 presidential election approaches, the issue of voting rights in the United States is more salient than ever. While millions of people will take advantage of their right to vote in the election, nearly six million U.S. citizens are unable to vote as a result of a felony conviction. Of this disenfranchised population, only 25% are incarcerated. The remaining 75% are in the process of completing supervised release (probation or parole) or have served their sentence entirely. This concern only deepens when data reveals that disenfranchisement policy disparately impacts some communities more than others. These concerning figures impact almost every state in the United States.