Saturday, January 7, 2017

Keramet Reiter

Keramet Reiter, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and at the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine, has been an associate at Human Rights Watch and testified about the impacts of solitary confinement before state and federal legislators. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Reiter's new book is 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My current reading list reveals a slight propensity towards doing too many things at once. I am listening to an audio recording of Joan Didion’s book of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and I am in the middle of reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond and Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney. I love Joan Didion’s blend of personal narrative and cultural critique, and as someone who has lived on both the east and west coast and travels frequently between them, I especially appreciate her bi-coastal perspective. And Slouching Towards Bethlehem, now almost half a century old, is full of literary snapshots of another era, infused with Didion’s curiosity about and awareness of being on the cusp of drastic social change.

Evicted is from my professional reading list. As an educator in law and criminology, with a particular interest in public policy, I am committed to reading, supporting, and assigning academic work that prioritizes readability. Evicted, written by a Harvard sociology professor, is eminently readable. It chronicles life in the poorest neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is at once heartbreaking and infuriating, revealing how misplaced economic incentives and inadequate legal protections contribute to cycles of instability and poverty. Desmond’s human stories bring these cycles to vivid life – and raise fascinating questions about how society might set up better infrastructures to provide and regulate housing.

Bone Swans, a collection of science fiction stories with a feminist twist, has provided a welcome respite from Evicted. Bone Swans just won the world fantasy award, and I recently had the pleasure of meeting the author, as she narrated the audio version of my book 23/7. Cooney’s futuristic, alternative universes, dominated by female heroines, have been a little oasis to which I’ve looked forward to escaping, especially from political news of late.

Next up: Ted Conover’s Immersion and Mona Lynch’s Hard Bargains. I first encountered Ted Conover’s work in New Jack: Guarding Sing Sing, the story of his year working as a correctional officer in an upstate New York prison. I have been a fan ever since, reading and re-reading his books about being a prison guard, working as a migrant laborer, and riding trains as a hobo, too. I’m looking forward to reading about how he has thought about these immersive experiences over the years, and I suspect I will be assigning this book to future students interested in how to do truly in-depth fieldwork. Mona Lynch is a colleague of mine at U.C. Irvine, and Hard Bargains is her deep dive into how federal drug defendants negotiate plea deals behind the scenes, in districts across the United States.
Visit Keramet Reiter's website, and learn more about 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.

--Marshal Zeringue