Researching Mass Incarceration and Mental Health: A Princetonian Anthropological Approach

Apr 13, 2023, 4:30 pm6:30 pm
219 Aaron Burr Hall



Event Description

The cannabis reform movement, often referred to as marijuana legalization, is the most significant shift in US drug policy in decades. It is part of a broader movement to reform or even abolish the justice system in its current form. Supporters hope that the legalization of cannabis will undermine the War on Drugs and begin undoing the excesses of mass incarceration. At the same time, there is increasing concern that the “regulate it like alcohol” approach to legalization is replicating old patterns of discrimination and does not have the capacity to spark real change. This talk explores what is actually happening in places where marijuana has been legalized and asks what an anthropological approach can tell us about how legalization matters to the broader justice reform movement.

William Garriott *08 is Professor and Chair of the Law, Politics, and Society Program at Drake University. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Princeton University and an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School. His research and teaching focus on the relationship between law, crime, and criminal justice, with specific interest in drugs, addiction, and policing. He is the author of Policing Methamphetamine: Narcopolitics in Rural America as well as the edited collections Addiction Trajectories, Policing and Contemporary Governance, and The Anthropology of Police. His work has appeared in journals such as Anthropological Theory and Law and Social Inquiry, where he also serves on the editorial board. He is former coeditor-in-chief of PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. He currently serves as coeditor of the book series, Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance with Cornell University Press. He is currently completing a book on marijuana legalization.

Jessica Cooper *18 is grounded in ethnographic fieldwork at sites of criminal justice reform, mental health clinics, and homeless encampments in the San Francisco Bay Area, her research explores connections and disjunctures between systems of inequality, care, and social justice. Rather than rely on structural explanations for persistent racism and poverty in the United States, Cooper examines how intimate socialities manage to refract, reify, and also refuse coordinates of broader systems of social inequality. Her first book project, Unaccountable: Surreal Life in California’s Mental Health Courts, reveals the ways in which relationships between criminal justice professionals and their clients unravel state power by inhabiting care as an alternative to the individualizing discourse of liberal responsibility. Drawing on observations of and participation in relationships among staff, clients, and clients' families in mental health courts, Unaccountable explores emergent ethics elicited by the demand to provide care for mentally ill individuals as a project of social justice amidst absent state services and vast material inequalities. Cooper's research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Council for Learned Societies, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Society for Psychological Anthropology/Lemelson Foundation, and the Center for Health and Wellbeing and Program in American Studies at Princeton University.