November 13, 2020
Welcome to the University of Oklahoma Carceral Studies Consortium Newsletter. The Carceral Studies Consortium strives to build a community for intellectual exploration that includes faculty, staff, graduate students, community members, practitioners, and organizers.

Carceral Studies is concerned with the independent function and nexus of the political and social systems that organize, shape, sustain, and entrench practices of punishment, surveillance, incarceration, and harm.
Introducing the Carceral Studies Conversations Podcast
"Indigeneity, Carceral Studies, and the Crisis of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Children," with Dr. Liza Black
In the inaugural episode of the University of OklahomaCarceral Studies Conversations podcast, Dr. Liza Black talks about carcerality, Indian Country, and the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Dr. Black is a citizen of Cherokee Nation and teaches and writes on American Indian history. Her first book, Picturing Indians: Native Americans in Film, 1941-1960, looks at film as places of work and documents employment practices of both Natives and non-Natives playing Indians on screen. Her second book is a history of the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Today's News
In this podcast, Bledsoe discusses how anti-Blackness is spread around the world by global capital. Different forms and expressions of capitalism, whether inside the U.S. or outside the U.S., draw on anti-Blackness as a precondition. Global capitalism requires and perpetuates a “Black aspatiality” in which Black people can’t “legitimately occupy space or create space.” This frames the social oppression occurring around the globe as a problem of anti-Blackness, not just of class, and leads to the conclusion that expressions of anti-Blackness are necessary for the perpetuation of Global capitalism. 

Recent protests and scholarship have brought increased scrutiny to extrajudicial killings and violence by police. As the attention has tarnished police unions’ public images, these unions rely more heavily on fear tactics. The unions gain power by using social media to vilify and intimidate legislators, exploit racialized law-and-order rhetoric to polarize the public, and threaten progressive mayors with civic chaos and destruction. “The goal is to preserve the privileges—chiefly, job security and scarcer oversight—they have won during decades of agitating and political accommodation.” According to Adler-Bell, this crisis of legitimacy for police unions has led police unions “to abandon any pretense of neutrality.”

A California appeals court found that the warden at San Quentin acted with “deliberate indifference to the risk of substantial harm to inmates” in handling the prison’s COVID-19 outbreak. The court ordered that the prison must reduce the population to half of its designated capacity. The petitioner had argued that San Quentin’s handling of the outbreak was a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Roberts argues that instead of using the term “child welfare system,” we should use terms like “family regulation system” or “family policing system” to more precisely describe the system of regulating, policing, punishing, and destroying families. In her research on family control, she learned from parents that “the answer isn’t to replace the current system with another system, but to radically transform our society and the way it cares for families.” There are many connections between systems of policing, criminal justice, and family regulation, and one primary connection is that these are systems for policing and punishment which “don’t solve the problems they claim to solve. They divert attention away from the real causes of harm in our society.” 

“Deconstructing Settler Colonialism and Borders," Nick Estes, Kelly Lytle Hernández, Lorena Quiroz, Harsah Walia, and Christine Catro (Study & Struggle, 10/27/20)
This conversation explores how “borders are fundamentally carceral regimes” by tracing connections between settler colonialism, imperialism, race, and racial capitalism. Undoing borders, therefore, is an abolitionist project. Border projects reflect racial capitalism and the allocation of resources in multiple ways: the construction of the border has shifted resources from the federal government to private entities that profit from building these systems; the deportability of people makes labor precarious and thereby cheapens this labor. The U.S. settler colonial project, moreover, is not just a domestic issue, but is a project of imperialism that has been exported to the rest of the world in forms that include economic sanctions.

This report documents law enforcement agencies’ widespread adoption of mobile device forensic tools (MDFT). This tool “allows police to extract a full copy of data from a cell phone – all emails, texts, photos, location, app data, and more -- which can then be programmatically searched.” Law enforcement agencies oftentimes perform these searches without warrants, and the tools represent “a dangerous expansion in law enforcement’s investigatory powers.” The report offers recommendations to reduce the use of these tools as a part of a broader effort to limit the police.

“The Lie of American Asylum," Francisco Cantú (NY Review, 11/5/20)
This review of three books on people affected by family separations and the criminalization of asylum that draw “attention to a system that has for decades been rooted in dehumanization and the deadly fiction of deterrence.” These works reveal the impact and scope of America’s punitive immigration politics: the U.S. has “the world’s largest immigration detention system, locking away more than half a million people annually.” The criminalization and stigmatization of migrants castigated them as threats to an imagined American ideal, and allowed for a gutting of asylum and refugee protections. The project of unraveling protections has been sustained for over three decades to “stymie, deter, and deny asylum seekers” as a way to reject foreign peoples. Such experiences of immigration, marked by violence and dehumanization, may lead to lasting trauma.

Nichanian and Simonton break down the results of the November 3rd election as related to criminal justice reform. The election “delivered major verdicts that will upend drug policy, immigration enforcement, and prosecutorial norms in significant chunks of the nation.” Voters across the country continued in the trend of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, with Oregon decriminalizing drug possession. Similarly, the movement against felony disenfranchisement continued with California and Washington, D.C. enfranchising all adult citizens not in prison. While some progressive DA candidates won their elections (e.g., Austin, Orlando, and Los Angeles), others lost their bids (e.g., Cincinatti, DeKalb County, and Topeka). Voters also rejected sheriffs across the country who supported ICE’s 287(g) program, which “deputizes local law enforcement to act like federal immigration agents within county jails.”

Defeating Trump failed to repudiate the “structural racism, settler colonialism, sexism, classism and policing” that his politics represented and deepened. Organizers recognize that they must continue to “build upon already existing organizing, campaigns and movements, create transformative projects based on mutual aid, political education and alternative institution building, and engage in political struggle to eradicate the aforementioned oppressive structures and to build the world we would like to see.” McCoy highlights multiple local campaigns engaging in this radical mass politics to demand resources that focus on justice and transformation, and he argues that these examples are the “building blocks for growing grassroots power” that is vital in the larger struggle against oppressive systems. 

In this podcast episode, Benjamin discusses how we can understand and mitigate false beliefs about the neutrality of technology. This pandemic has brought into relief the way that inequity and injustice are woven into our society. Benjamin argues that the people using and the people creating these technological tools have the responsibility to consider how their technologies will be used in order to change the patterns that can add up to “good, positive transformations.” She highlights the #TechWontBuildIt movement of workers refusing to “build tools that are going to be used to re-entrench racist violence and xenophobia and surveillance.” Wisdom and conscience, she contends, must be present at the beginning and throughout the process of world-building: “Wisdom is important in the questions that we pose at the very beginning, that we want technology to address and answer... That is a crucial component of technological design.”

Join the Consortium Board! Faculty, staff, graduate students, and community members can apply to become Core Affiliate or Affiliate Board Members. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
Jacob R. Moore, associate director of the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University, will lecture on the Center's work on power, infrastructure, and justice in the context of incarceration via Zoom on Monday, November 23rd, at 12:45 p.m. For more information, contact Marjorie Callahan at
The Oklahoma-based Poetic Justice program seeks female-identifying volunteers to facilitate creative writing with incarcerated women during their Winter 2020-2021 session.
The award-winning OU Gibbs College of Architecture student journal Telesis invites contributions on this year’s topic, “Isolation.” Submissions are due December 7, 2020.

The Consortium Newsletter will offer a roundup of a few selected articles that reflect today’s news, organizing, and thinking related to the carceral state. We understand that freedom work is built on education and engagement. Education requires an understanding of contemporary issues informed by their historical context. We hope that these curated articles will help you analyze the issues that we face and understand the community that we strive to construct.

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Land Acknowledgment

The University of Oklahoma is on the traditional lands of the Caddo Nation and the Wichita & Affiliated Tribes. This land was also once part of the Muscogee Creek and Seminole nations. It also served as a hunting ground, trade exchange point, and migration route for the Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, and Osage nations. Today, 39 federally-recognized Tribal nations dwell in what is now the State of Oklahoma as a result of settler colonial policies designed to confine and forcefully assimilate Indigenous peoples.
The University of Oklahoma is an equal opportunity institution.