Craig Haney questions authority throughout his career

In a powerful speech about our nation's incarceration policies and practices, social psychology professor Craig Haney demonstrated the value and impact of challenging the status quo.

Craig has spent his entire career documenting the dramatic escalation of incarceration in the United States, a period during which he has advocated for greater compassion and justice in the criminal justice system.

Craig delivered his remarks to a full house in the Music Center Recital Hall under the auspices of the 49th Faculty Research Lecture, an event that celebrates faculty excellence and the research mission of the university.

The scale of what Craig described was astonishing: A prison population that has soared over the past 40 years despite little change in crime rates or the numbers of people arrested. We routinely lock up the mentally ill, people of color are disproportionately represented in prisons, and conditions are beyond grim as overcrowding and a shift in mindset from rehabilitation to overt punishment have become the norm. The United States is such an outlier on the world stage that even if we cut our prison population in half, he said, we would still have the second-highest prison population in the world.

Fortunately, Craig sees signs that public policy—and public opinion—might be changing. In a landmark case to which Craig contributed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that conditions inside California prisons constituted cruel and unusual punishment and must be improved, and a recent Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform in Washington, D.C., attracted a diverse, bipartisan audience, all of whom were calling for reform.

Hats off to Craig for bearing witness for nearly four decades. And kudos to this campus for nurturing pioneers like Craig Haney, whose courage, compassion, and commitment enable us to reconnect with our humanity.

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