If you’re attending American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia from November 15 – 18, make sure to visit UC Press at booth #27 for a 40% discount. Our titles act as a catalyst for change, inspiring students, scholars, and practitioners alike to think critically, produce and consume research responsibly, and advocate for social justice.
The treatment of prisoners continues to be at the forefront of global discussions on human rights. August 10th is Prisoner’s Justice Day, a day of observance that began in 1975 after Edward Nalon committed suicide in a prison segregation unit in Ontario, Canada. The day commemorates all those who have died in custody and challenges the confinement conditions that encroach on basic human rights.
Imagine spending nearly 24 hours a day alone, confined to an 8’ x 10’ windowless cell. This is the reality of approximately 100,000 inmates in solitary confinement in the United States today. Psychiatrist Terry Allen Kupers, author of Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It, shares how the psychological affects of solitary confinement can cause harm, including anxiety attacks, paranoia, depression, and other mental illness—and can sometimes lead to suicide. Solitary can be considered a practice that qualifies as an human rights abuse. And inmates have suffered by their own hand when repeated warnings about their mental stability are ignored. Legal actions continue to attempt to change the prison culture so mentally ill inmates can receive the services they need. Here, Kupers notes in Solitary:
[I]t has been known for decades that while suicide is approximately twice as prevalent in prison as it is in the community, fully half of all successful suicides that occur in a correctional system involve the 3 to 8 percent of prisoners who are in some form of isolated confinement at any given time.
It is by now clear that for prisoners prone to serious mental illness, time served in isolation exacerbates their mental illness and too often results in suicide. This is the main reason that federal courts have ruled that prisoners with serious mental illness must not be subjected to long-term isolation. Federal judge Felton Henderson, ruling in Madrid v. Gomez regarding the SHU [Special Housing Unit] at Pelican Bay State Prison, wrote: “Many if not most, inmates in the SHU experience some degree of psychological trauma in reaction to their extreme social isolation and the severely restricted environmental stimulation in SHU.” Further, he asserted, “The conditions in the SHU may press the outer bounds of what most humans can psychologically tolerate.”
In court I argue that the harsh conditions of solitary confinement that cause severe psychiatric symptoms in previously healthy prisoners inevitably have a devastating effect on prisoners prone to mental illness. In far too many cases the effects include psychosis, mania, compulsive acts of self-abuse or suicide, and often some combination of the three.
What are your thoughts on the current criminal justice policies and the treatment of mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement?
Why did you become an acquisitions editor?
I’ve always liked how being an editor is half humanities and half problem solving. I think it’s a good fit for who I am. As an example, when I was a sophomore in college I decided to major in English and when I was a junior I became an EMT. It sounds naïve but I wanted to help people when they needed it. These days my authors and I aren’t riding an ambulance together – although sometimes hitting a deadline can feel that way – but we’re creating something that solves a real problem for real people. Being an editor means I get to work with authors and educators who improve their students’ lives by explaining something, or telling an important story. Hopefully, we make the world a little better.
What projects are you working on now to develop the Sociology and Social Science Methods list at UC Press?
It’s been two years since I joined UC Press and I’m really excited about the books we’re producing. One that’s high on my list is Deviance: Social Constructions and Blurred Boundaries by Leon Anderson at Utah State University. We just finished our peer review and the manuscript is coming together nicely. I’m also thrilled to be publishing books that will help social scientists do research, like two books by John Hoffmann at Brigham Young University—Principles of Data Management and Presentation (publishing Fall 2017) and Regression Models for Categorical, Count, and Related Variables. These books strengthen data literacy, which fits well with the educational mission of the Press. And no, I have not been spending too much time in Utah. Great national parks!
You’re developing new textbooks and course books. Why is new content intended for use in courses important to you?
Sociology is a hugely important discipline because it reveals things that we don’t always see or recognize about our society or ourselves. It does that through its unique perspective and rigorous research. Personally, I think that’s more important now than ever. Our world needs critical thinkers. We need people who can see, study, and critique social systems so that we can make progress.
Are there other particular courses where you’re looking to develop new content?
What’s exciting about the Press is that our Higher Education program allows us to help faculty in areas where big college publishers aren’t focused—on mid- and upper-level courses on social institutions and social change. I’m also looking to sign in courses like qualitative and quantitative methods—places where the rubber meets the road for would-be scholars. I want to find educators who teach these courses and who see the same needs and opportunities I do. It’s a new venture with a lot of support from the Press. We, alongside our authors and faculty, have the capacity to do something great with it.
Interested in publishing your work with Seth and UC Press? Contact Seth at email@example.com.