Colloquium on Asylums and Prisons: Deinstitutionalization and Decarceration

Friday, May 3, 2013 - 9:00am - 3:00pm
International House
Contact info (email or phone):

The Kanter Project on Mass Incarceration at the University of Chicago Law School presents

Asylums and Prisons: Deinstitutionalization and Decarceration
A Colloquium and Conversation at the University of Chicago

with Jonathan Metzl, Michael Rembis, Liat Ben-Moshe, Anne Parsons, Robert Fairbanks, Ray Noll, Christopher Berk and Bernard Harcourt

Friday May 3, 2013
9:00 am to 3:00 pm
The Coulter Lounge at the International House (1414 E 59th St)

Since the early nineteenth century, carceral spaces such as asylums, prisons, and state schools have been central to U.S. governance. Yet in the twentieth century these institutions took drastically different paths, as institutions for developmental disabilities and mental health dramatically decreased and prisons became the dominant state-run institutions. This one-day symposium at the University of Chicago on Friday May 3, 2013, will bring together scholars from political science, law, history, sociology and disability studies to ask questions such as: How does deinstitutionalization in mental health relate to the rise of mass incarceration? How do medicalization, criminalization and technologies of surveillance intersect in the new penal state? What are the possibilities for change? The symposium will take place at the University of Chicago on Friday, May 3, 2012 and will include a series of short presentations and discussion-based sessions that will attempt to rethink these issues. 

This event is free and open to the University of Chicago community.

Schedule of Presentations and Discussions

9:00         Welcome by Bernard Harcourt

9:15         Presentation and discussion with Jonathan Metzl, Vanderbilt University, and Anne Parsons, University of Illinois at Chicago

10:15       Break

10:30       Presentation and discussion with Michael Rembis, SUNY at Buffalo, and Liat Ben-Moshe, University of Illinois at Chicago

11:30       Lunch

12:30       Presentation and discussion with Christopher Berk, University of Chicago, and Bernard Harcourt, University of Chicago

1:30         Break

1:45         Presentation and discussion with Ray Noll, University of Chicago, and Robert Fairbanks, University of Chicago

2:45         Closing


Liat Ben-Moshe is a Postdoctoral fellow at the department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her dissertation examined abolitionary demands to close down institutions for those labeled developmentally disabled and mentally ill (in the form of anti-psychiatry and deinstitutionalization movements) and prisons (in the form of the prison and penal abolition movements) in the U.S. 

Christopher Berk is a Ph.D. student in political science at the University of Chicago. He is currently writing a dissertation titled “On Self-Governance: Participation in Prisons, Asylums, and Boarding Schools.”

Robert Fairbanks II teaches at the University of Chicago in Social Service Administration. He has written on street-level recovery houses in How it Works: Recovering Citizens in Post-Welfare Philadelphia (University of Chicago Press, 2009), and is currently conducting an ethnography of Sheridan Prison in Illinois.  

Bernard E. Harcourt teaches at the University of Chicago in Political Science and Law. He has written on the complex relationship between prisons and asylums during twentieth century U.S. history.  He is the author, most recently, of The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (Harvard University Press 2011).

Jonathan Metzl is the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society and the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University. He writes on issues of mental health, institutionalization, and race and politics.  He is the author of The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease (Beacon Press 2011)

Ray Noll is a Ph.D. student in political science at the University of Chicago. Her research is in the area of institutionalization, sexuality, and contemporary critical theory.  

Anne Parsons, an advanced PhD candidate at UIC, studies how these policies played out on the ground in Philadelphia between 1945 and 1990, specifically looking at how the process of deinstitutionalization directly influenced the politics of imprisonment in the 1960s and 1970s, and how the criminal system took over many of the functions of the mental health system.

Michael Rembis a professor of history and director of the Center for Disability Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He researches in the area of 19th and 20th century history and is the author of Defining Deviance: Sex, Science, and Delinquent Girls, 1890-1960 (University of Illinois Press, 2013)