A New Vision of Black Freedom: The Manning Marable Memorial Conference | April 26-29, 2012

Challenging Punishment 2013 Conference

Event Date: 
Friday, October 4, 2013 - 9:00am - Saturday, October 5, 2013 - 5:40pm
Columbia University & Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Challenging Punishment

Challenging Punishment Online Registration

Challenging Punishment Schedule

“Challenging Punishment,” a conference sponsored by Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS), will be a two-day event, featuring scholars and researchers; health and legal professionals; and citizen advocates in discussion of the relevant social, legal, and public health issues raised by the War on Drugs and mass incarceration.  The meetings will be held in New York City, on the campus of Columbia University (October 4th) and at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library (October 5th).  

At present, the United States leads the world in per capita rates of incarceration. It was the 1980s and 1990s escalation of the War on Drugs (WoD) that contributed the most to the prison boom, and which has had the greatest negative impact not only on the health of drug users, but also on the well-being of entire communities.

Public reaction – ranging from mild disapproval to assertive outcry – has made it clear that the WoD is no longer as popular as it was when President Richard M. Nixon declared it in 1971 and when Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1973 inaugurated New York’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws (the Rockefeller Drug Laws). From a legislative point of view, it’s clear that the resources spent in the WoD have not realized the returns which its proponents had promised, and budgetary crises have forced the issue to some degree.

Given our optimistic belief that in the near future there will be serious reconsideration of the punitive domestic policies (and generally shortsighted foreign policies) which have characterized the United States’ War(s) on Drugs, we believe that some basic questions are pertinent. The first, of course, is the historical “How and why did we get here?” Thinking of the present, a second poses the question of “What varieties of health promotion are producing positive results not only in terms of addressing drug consumption, but also in the fortification of families and communities in the face of the detrimental effects of misguided drug policy.” A third regards the future: “What are the available opportunities to repair and strengthen our social and community networks as well as our public health response to problems which the War on Drugs either created or exacerbated?”

Topics to be addressed over the course of the two days will include: the carceral state and mass incarceration; criminal, family, and juvenile justice policy; the intersectionality of race, class, gender, sexuality, and citizenship in an era of a War on Drugs and mass incarceration; defending and augmenting public health; alternatives to incarceration; licit drugs and pharmaceutical industry; race and criminal justice; and harm reductive strategies, among others. 

In the spirit of IRAAS’s founder, the late Dr. Manning Marable, and his belief in the democratic value of ideas shared among as broad a range and with as many people as possible, this conference, like all the IRAAS conferences before it, offers no-cost registration to the public.

Conference Contact: General inquiries; Media inquiries & Media permissions: challengingpunishment@gmail.com

IRAAS Contact: iraas@columbia.edu