About Jonathan Simon

Jonathan Simon is a professor of law at UC Berkeley and associate dean of the Berkeley’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy program. An expert in criminal justice issues, he is the author of two books, "Poor Discipline," on the history of the prison parole system, and "Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear." Both received a distinguished book award from the American Sociological Association. An active blogger, he posts frequently on his own site, “Governing Through Crime, and as a guest commentator on other blogs.

Time to Reinvent the Police

The astoundingly crude and arrogant response of NYPD rank and file to the tragic murder of two officers by an unstable young man last month (read the fascinating story by Kim Barker, Mosi Secret and Richard Fausset in the New York Times on the man who killed the officers) raises an interesting question: do we really need the police? ngry at Mayor Bill DeBlasio for winning an election on reforming police practices, and speaking honestly about how people of color feel about the police in the … [Read more...]

If Black Lives Matter, End the War on Crime

#460168154 / gettyimages.com rom the perspective of tens of thousands of protesters around the nation this week, the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island reflected an unfathomable decision by white police officers to kill unarmed black men engaged in trivial criminal (if any) behavior. To thousands of police officers (and their families), these deaths fit in a different narrative, one where very large and powerful men responded to lawful police … [Read more...]

Mass Incarceration’s Real Problem: Inhumanity

e may disagree on who belongs and who does not belong in prison, or on how long prison sentences should be, or what goals those sentences should be meted out to accomplish. But one thing we should not, must not disagree on, is that those prisons should be humane. What is humane? Humane means treating a person consistently with their status as a human being. In other words, recognizing their humanity. As I argue in my new book, Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the … [Read more...]

California’s Broken Punishment Paradigm

Life in prison with the remote possibility of death: the death penalty and California’s broken punishment paradigm ast week’s 39-page opinion by U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney — finding California’s death penalty unconstitutional — is already setting off a wave of debate in the media. We will see yet whether it catches any political fire in this dry, but so-far politically placid, season in California. There is much to recommend in the opinion (read it here courtesy of the LA … [Read more...]

Mass Incarceration, Mass Deportation: Twin Legacies of Governing Through Crime

ne afflicts mostly American citizens, disproportionately those of African American and Latino backgrounds from areas of concentrated poverty, but also many white and middle class citizens who fall into the hands of police and prosecutors.  The other afflicts exclusively non-citizens living in the U.S. without federal authorization or in violation of the terms of their permission. One results in people being kept in prisons for years and decades at a time.  The other often starts with … [Read more...]