The United States is plagued by severe prison overcrowding, which creates health and safety risks and other problems for inmates and staff and also touches on constitutional issues.
The West Virginia Law Review in cooperation with the Edward G. Donley Memorial Law Lecture will present “Crime and Punishment: The Legal Ramifications of Prison Overcrowding,” Wednesday, March 2 at noon in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom at West Virginia University’s Law Center. This event is open to the public and will be webcast live at http://law.wvu.edu/crimepunish.
Henry Weinstein, JD, who teaches law and journalism at the University of California, Irvine will moderate a panel discussion about the issue.
“Prison overcrowding has been recognized as a national problem and legislatures have commissioned work at various levels in order to explore solutions,” said Lee Adair Sparks, editor-in-chief of the WVLR. “Therefore, a discourse on this issue including a discussion of the problems in California, in West Virginia, as well as the social and legal implications, is not only relevant but warranted.”
California has the most drastic prison overcrowding in recent years but West Virginia is not far behind. Recent statistics show West Virginia’s prison growth near 7 percent, one of the fastest growth rates in the country. This rapid growth, combined with the lack of utilization of community corrections and criminal sentencing inequities creates a problem for not only the state Department of Corrections but society as a whole.
Weinstein, who won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting of spot news (part of a team of Los Angeles Times reporters), was one of the founding faculty members when the U.C.- Irvine School of Law was launched in 2008.
Panelists, as selected by the editors of the WVLR, include:
• Benjamin Rice, JD, the general counsel in the Office of Legal Affairs for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Rice will outline the problem of prison overcrowding in California, which is seen by many commentators as a microcosm of prison conditions in the U. S. His presentation will provide a firsthand perspective of one of the most extreme examples of judicial intervention in this nation’s history, through the prisoner release order issued by an impaneled Federal Court.
• J. Norbert Federspiel, JD, the director of the West Virginia Division of Criminal Justice Services. Federspiel will speak about prison overcrowding in West Virginia and reformative efforts that have taken place. His presentation will also include the impact that prison overcrowding has on state communities, projections of future impact and recommendations for reform.
• Professor Craig Haney, PhD, JD, faculty member at the University of California – Santa Cruz. Haney, a leading scholar on the psychological effects of overcrowding on prisoners, will provide commentary on both the psychological effects of prison overcrowding and the constitutionality of conditions that currently exist in American prisons. He also will provide insight regarding potential criminal justice reform necessary to curb existing populations.
• Professor Cecilia Klingele, JD, faculty member at the University of Wisconsin School of Law. Klingele will address the controversial issue of criminal sentencing reform, which has been suggested as a solution to reduce ever-growing prison populations. Her argument will focus on anticipating growth trends and proactive prevention.
Founded in 1894, the WVLR is the fourth oldest law review in the U.S. and publishes three issues each year. The WVLR is a professional, student-governed legal journal that publishes articles of interest to legal scholars, students, legislators, and members of the practicing Bar. The publication, which includes notes, comments, and articles of scholarly and practical value to the legal community, is published by a student editorial board.
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CONTACT: Brian Caudill, College of Law