Dr. Judah Schept Speaks at Princeton University Prison Education and Reform Conference

Judah Schept

Judah Schept, Associate Professor of Justice Studies at EKU, recently travelled to Princeton University to deliver an invited lecture at a conference entitled “Toward Abolition: Dismantling the Carceral State.” Princeton Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), which had organized the conference, asked Schept to offer the morning plenary address and to discuss his work as well as his analysis of the current moment. The conference drew over 200 participants, including students, community organizers, advocates, artists, and scholars.

Schept’s talk, “Against Punishment: Seeing and Unseeing the Prison,” drew from his book Progressive Punishment: Job Loss, Jail Growth and the Neoliberal Logic of Carceral Expansion as well as his current research into prison and extractive economies in Central Appalachia in order to offer a provocation that analysts of the current moment should take seriously the question of how the carceral sate seems to stabilize even amidst the current “bi-partisan consensus” on reform. By looking to examples of carceral expansion through appeals to therapeutic justice in Indiana and to economic development in Central Appalachia, Schept argued for a more precise and cautious engagement with punishment as an analytic and to not mistake the force and violence of its material and symbolic presence as the actual animating logic of the carceral state.  Instead, Schept noted, we should take seriously questions of work, wages, waste, infrastructure, and the continued loss of the social wage since these—along with but not necessarily less important than crime and punishment policy—are the issues that, left unaddressed, underwrite the continued health of the carceral state even during periods of so-called reform.

Published on April 20, 2017