No nation celebrates the ideals of equal protection of individual rights and freedom more than the United States. Our Constitution begins with a Bill of Rights that promises to secure the liberty of citizens and to offer protection against arbitrary government power. Yet, significantly increasing income inequality and wealth disparities have become normalized, in addition to the deeply problematic use of the criminal justice system as an attempt to solve what are essentially social problems. The “land of the free” imprisons a greater percentage of its population per capita than any other country in the world.
How can we understand and/or justify this paradox? Why does a nation so enamored with “liberty” seem equally attracted to social exclusion? What economic, social and political forces are involved here; what ideas, values and interests? What is the role of conflict, power, and neoliberal penal policies in reinforcing social inequality in the United States? What is the meaning of liberty to various U.S. citizen groups? How can we overcome punitive ideologies and the practices and policies they manifest?
We are thrilled to welcome three keynote speakers who will directly address our conference themes, which is how we transcend punishment to seek social, political, and economic equality and social justice.