Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom
Pelican Bay Prison in California was designed as one of the first “supermax” facilities in response to a perceived risk of black radicalism in the 1970s. Extreme conditions sparked statewide hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 involving up to 30,000 inmates, which led to a rise in the use of solitary confinement.
Keramet Reiter, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and at the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine, explores the experience of solitary confinement in her new book, 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Prisoners in solitary spend 23 hours a day in featureless cells, with no visitors or human contact. Originally designed to be brief and exceptional, solitary confinement has become a long-term and common practice throughout the United States. Reiter will discuss her research and new book in the Criminal Justice Center and students, faculty, criminal justice practitioners, and community members are invited to attend.
Using stories of gang bosses, small-time parolees, and others at Pelican Bay, Reiter describes the manner in which prisoners are chosen for solitary confinement, held for years, and routinely released directly to the streets. She also investigates the social costs and mental havoc left behind by years of isolation.
Reiter’s book is the compilation of 15 years of research in and about prisons. She studies prisons, prisoners’ rights, and the impact of prison and punishment policy on individuals, communities, and legal systems. She uses a variety of methods in her work — including interviewing, archival and legal analysis, and quantitative data analysis — in order to understand both the history and impact of criminal justice policies, from medical experimentation on prisoners and record clearing programs to the use of long-term solitary confinement in the United States.
Reiter has worked as an associate at Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization which operates across the globe, and has testified about the impacts of solitary confinement before state and federal legislators.