Cruel and Not Unusual: Can America’s Prisons and Jails Change, and, If So, How? 

Event Status
Scheduled

Program | Dedication | Speaker Bios |  Directions | Local Guide 

The Prison and Jail Innovation Lab is hosting a symposium that will bring together the country’s leading experts on prison and jail conditions to reflect on some of the most critical and challenging issues in our field. We will discuss what can be done to address the seemingly intractable horrific conditions in certain correctional systems, and debate whether meaningful reform of America’s prisons and jails is truly possible. 

There will be four main sessions:  the first is focused on “The Depths of Deliberate Indifference,” with case studies of four different corrections agencies (Rikers, Alabama, Arizona, and Texas); the second examines “The Levers of Change,” and asks about the tools available to turn a prison or jail around, even after a win in the courts; the third presents some rare examples of innovations in prisons that seek to change institutional culture; and the fourth asks whether meaningful change is truly possible and whether there is hope for reforming America’s prisons and jails. We will not shy away from asking hard questions and critiquing our own efforts at reform. 

Speakers and audience participants will include people with lived experience; journalists; litigators; oversight practitioners; advocates; corrections officials; academics; and more. The conference is chaired by Michele Deitch, Distinguished Senior Lecturer at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and Director of the Prison and Jail Innovation Lab at the University of Texas. 

Please plan to join us for a stimulating day and a half of discussions that are sure to challenge and inspire you, and for opportunities to connect with colleagues in the field from across the country. 

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cruel-not-unusual-can-americas-prisons-jails-change-and-if-so-how-tickets-477612992317

There is no charge for the symposium, but because spaces are limited, we ask that you register only if you definitely plan to attend. We encourage participants to stay for the entire event. 

Schedule 

Friday, February 3, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (breakfast and lunch included) 

Reception on Friday evening, 5:00 – 6:00 pm 

Saturday, February 4, 9:00 am – 1:30 pm (breakfast and lunch included) 

Program and Speakers 

Conference Program

Our list of speakers and facilitators includes: 

  • Synøve Anderson, University of Oslo / Scandinavian Prison project
  • Prof. Andrea Armstrong, Loyola University New Orleans School of Law 
  • Prof. Sheila Bedi, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law/ MacArthur Justice Center
  • Cathleen Beltz, federal court-appointed monitor for Philadelphia Jail/ former Assistant Inspector General for Los Angeles Jail 
  • Keri Blakinger, The Marshall Project/ author, Corrections in Ink 
  • Reuven Blau, investigative reporter, The City/ author, Rikers; An Oral History 
  • Bill Collins, Correctional Law Reporter
  • Laura Cowall, Deputy Chief, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
  • Prof. Michele Deitch, LBJ School of Public Affairs/ Prison and Jail Innovation Lab 
  • John Fabricius, Arizonans for Transparency and Accountability in Corrections (ATAC)/ Dream Corps.org/ formerly incarcerated in AZ prisons for 15 years 
  • David Fathi, ACLU National Prison Project
  • Molly Gill, FAMM
  • Prof. Jordan Hyatt, Drexel University/ Little Scandinavia Project (Pennsylvania)
  • Jimmy Jenkins, investigative reporter, Arizona Republic 
  • Corene Kendrick, ACLU National Prison Project 
  • Jamiles Lartey, The Marshall Project 
  • Ronald McKeithen, Alabama Appleseed/formerly incarcerated in AL prisons for 37 years 
  • Scott Medlock, attorney for Texas prisoners in heat class action litigation and COVID class action litigation 
  • Margot Mendelson, Prison Law Office
  • Alan Mills, Uptown People’s Law Center/ attorney for Illinois prisoners in class action litigation 
  • Prof. Michael Mushlin, Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University  
  • Dan Pacholke, former Secretary, Washington Dept. of Corrections
  • David Pitts, Urban Institute, Prison Research Innovation Initiative 
  • Jessica Sandoval, Unlock the Box Campaign
  • Terry Schuster, Ombudsman for New Jersey prison system
  • Beth Shelburne, investigative reporter, Campaign for Smart Justice, ACLU of Alabama 
  • Don Specter, Prison Law Office
  • Hernandez Stroud, Brennan Center 
  • Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Chicago Beyond/ former warden at Cook County Jail 
  • Sarena Townsend, former Deputy Commissioner overseeing investigations and staff discipline for the NYC Department of Corrections 
  • Jennifer Vollen-Katz, John Howard Association of Illinois
  • Alycia Welch, LBJ School of Public Affairs/ Prison and Jail Innovation Lab 
  • Prof. Brie Williams, UC San Francisco / Amend 
  • Dean Williams, former Secretary, Colorado Department of Corrections/ former Commissioner, Alaska Department of Corrections 
  • Amanda Woolford, Director of Women’s Services, Maine Department of Corrections

Hotel Information 

We have reserved a block of rooms for Thursday and Friday nights at the Hampton Inn and Suites, 1701 Lavaca St. in Austin, about a 20-25 minute walk from the Law School or a short ride by Lyft or Uber. You can get a discounted rate of $199/nt by using the link below: 

Available Rooms - Hampton Inn & Suites Austin @ The University/Capitol (hilton.com) 

(that link should prefill with a Group Code—CHHCNU; the name of the conference “Cruel Unusual Can Amer” should also be visible) 

Additional Event Information 

Event Co-Sponsors 

William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, University of Texas School of Law 

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs 

Contact Information 

For more information, contact Conference Chair Michele Deitch: Michele.Deitch@austin.utexas.edu  

Date and Time
Feb. 3 to 4, 2023, All Day
Location
In-person at University of Texas School of Law, Austin, Texas | Eidman Courtroom (no hybrid option available)
Event tags
Events