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The Uproot Blog

  • The Clinton Doctrine (5/2/2016) Hillary Clinton has made her expertise on foreign policy, both as a senator and as Secretary of State, a major component of her presidential campaign. She has claimed that her experience makes her ready to be Commander-in-Chief. Clearly, her campaign believes that this is a key selling point for an electorate concerned about terrorism and international instability. So, what is Secretary Clinton’s record on foreign policy and war? What exactly would the Clinton Doctrine look like? Honduras Secretary Clinton supported the 2009 military coup in Honduras which removed the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. Soldiers kidnapped President Zelaya late at
  • Freedom From Theory So As To Theorize About Freedom (4/25/2016) A student asked me recently what I thought was the most formidable criminological theory. I responded, saying “Richard Quinney takes wonderful pictures of birds.” But I should have begun with her by apologizing for having written a criminological theory myself, so please take this as a humble and heartfelt apology to you on her behalf. I will be more careful in the future. Let me explain why. Some of my students are angry about the state of mainstream criminological theory. Of course I can’t say I blame them. But for some, I think, the anger they feel is a function
  • The Yuck Election (4/18/2016) Here we are. It’s April and the depressing, almost psychotic, quadrennial circus of Presidential elections is disgorging itself like a bad case of intestinal flu all over the American populace. What a show! It’s a true extravaganza. A spectacle that makes Debord look like a Biblical prophet. It is Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man replayed as American Horror Story. It is the Game of Thrones without the dragons and prurient sex and with only metaphorical death. Yes, here we are with the probable nominees of the two major political parties being two of the most unpopular political figures in the United
  • Boundary Violations between Prison Staff and Inmates: The “Orange is the New Black” Effect (3/7/2016) Every semester, I teach an Ethics and Criminal Justice course for our Criminal Justice minor. Several semesters ago, I revised my final exam to include the following prompt: You are a corrections officer at minimum security prison camp. You discover that one of your co-workers has been having a romantic and sexual relationship with one of the prisoners for six months. You know this is against the rules, and that both the inmate and your co-worker will face serious consequences for engaging in an inappropriate relationship. If you blow the whistle on your co-worker, she will lose her job and
  • The Koch Epidemic (2/22/2016) The criminal justice system is at a critical juncture. With the untimely passing of arguably one of the most influential conservative Supreme Court justices in United States history, and the potential for the next President to nominate possibly four justices to the court, the system is poised for a major shift. Couple this with the growing debate over the death penalty, mass incarceration, police brutality, and corporate criminality, among many others, and the implications become even more far-reaching. From the bowels of social media, where racism and misogyny are not only tolerated but encouraged, to the meetings of corporate billionaires,
  • Analyzing an Anomaly: Steven Avery and American Miscarriages of Justice (2/11/2016) The directors of Making a Murderer, Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, were recently featured on the Daily Show (January 18, 2016) to discuss the motivations for their explosive 10-part documentary series which began streaming on Netflix on December 18, 2015. Providing some evidence of its swift permeation into America’s psyche, the hashtag #MakingAMurderer climbed to the 70th percentile in Twitter popularity rankings just three weeks after its initial debut (Nyman 2016). Yet despite the public’s obsession with evaluating the guilt or innocence of Steven Avery, Demos and Ricciardi insist that their main impetus in showcasing the Halbach investigation and eventual
  • Flint, Poisoned Water and Systemic Criminality (2/1/2016) On January 16, 2016 Michigan Governor Rick Snyder delivered his annual “State of the State” address. In that speech the Governor struck an almost apologetic tone over the water crisis in Flint. He said that it is “now time to tell the truth about what we have done.” He went on to say “the government has failed you.” But the Governor’s feigned contrition is wholly disingenuous. Snyder’s suggestion that some officials made “mistakes” which led to the lead poisoning of public water supplies was a gross understatement. The Governor claimed to know nothing about the period between April 2014 when
  • Against “Cyber” (1/11/2016) Among my friends and colleagues, my hatred of the “cyber” prefix is well known. I loathe cyber. Yet it has become the de facto term within public and academic discourses to refer to almost any topic related to human-computer interactions. Criminology does not escape from this trend. A multitude of books have emerged, largely over the past decade, with “cyber” branded clearly across the cover. A trove of articles can be found featuring “cyber” prominently in their titles. Even journals dedicated to “cyber criminology” have been produced such as the International Journal of Cyber Criminology which began publishing online in
  • Absolute Capitalism, Mass Murder, and Suicide (1/4/2016) Mass murder has become all too common in the United States. From Columbine, to Newtown, to San Bernardino the response has been both predictable and banal. There are almost ritualistic calls for additional controls on firearms. There are commentaries on the problem of mental health. And there are suggestions that the depiction of violence in movies, television programming and video games sparks imitation and stimulates the deeply buried dark impulses in the minds of some potentially dangerous people. To some degree these all have a core of truth. To some degree they all have the exaggerations of myth. Yes, we
  • Disrupting Democracy: Felony Disenfranchisement Laws and the “Smart on Crime” Era (11/23/2015) A few days ago, I read a shocking headline that stated “Kentucky’s Incarceration Rate Ranks 7th in the World” (Lopez, 2015). According to the article, Kentucky’s incarceration rate beats out Russia, Thailand, Panama and El Salvador. This new ranking follows the past few years of accolades given to the state for its correctional reform efforts. In 2011, Kentucky passed a law that overhauled the state’s correctional system. The reforms were lauded as groundbreaking and the state was heralded as a national example of the bi-partisan “Smart on Crime” movement. While it is popularly used as the “poster child” example, the
  • Film the Police Anyway: Questioning the “Ferguson Effect” (11/16/2015) It is no secret that police officers are dealing with changes and increased media attention to their profession, especially since the expanded use of technology that has prompted citizens to record them more often. Current FBI Director James Comey suggested these changes have occurred due to police-citizen encounters being caught on film with increasing frequency, which has led to a vocal backlash and intense scrutiny against officers, making them reluctant to do their job and combat crime. He called this the “Ferguson Effect”. The suggestion that citizens filming police is the reason police are hesitant to do their job is
  • Happy 2 Year Blogiversary (11/9/2015) It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since our first blog post. Since that time, the blog has grown considerably, and we’d like to take a moment to thank the contributors. As a collective, our mission remains the same and we hope that you’ll consider contributing content in 2016. Thank you from the Uprooting family! Past and Current Editors: Castle, Tammy Collins, Victoria Lee, Anne McDonald, Danielle Root, Carl Vysotsky, Stanislav Blog Posts: Benton, Michael Bolton, Benjamin Bordt, Maria Canty, Andre Carter, Lisa Castle, Tammy Chenault, Tiffany Cohen, Jeff Collins, Janice Collins, Victoria Copenhaver, Allen Dawson-Edwards, Cherie DeValve,
  • Tough on Corporate Crime? (11/2/2015) A group of individuals — “flesh-and-blood human beings” as they are called by Attorney General Eric Holder — working for large banks and Wall Street investment firms, wrecked the US economy in 2008 through widespread fraud. Their actions led to between $12 and $22 trillion in losses, according to the Government Accountability Office — the equivalent of between 600 and 1,100 years of street crime! This includes an average loss of about $107,000 per US household, according to an analysis by Pew Charitable Trusts. The fraud led to the worst recession in America since the Great Depression. Yet, according to
  • The Pending Death of an (Another) Innocent Man? (10/26/2015) Carlos LeLuna, Ruben Cantu, Larry Griffin, Joseph O’Dell, David Spence, Leo Jones, Gary Graham, Claude Jones, Cameron Willingham, Troy Davis, Lester Bower… Will Richard Glossip’s name be added to the list of men who were executed with considerable doubt surrounding his guilt? As with many cases of wrongful convictions, Glossip’s case and conviction rested upon a single piece of crucial, but perhaps faulty, evidence. This was the testimony of a witness for the prosecution. In this case, that testimony was given by the admitted murderer in the crime, Justin Sneed. No physical evidence linked Glossip to the crime. Sneed delivered
  • Uprooting Academic Complicity in State Violence (10/19/2015) States are violent. Violence in fact may be the foundation of all state power; at their core they tacitly and explicitly wield violence (both symbolic and real) in order to ensure compliance, cooperation, and control. But of course we all know from many different theoretical schools of thought that state power and legitimacy also involves a very complex array of more subtle techniques, arrangements, and narratives that if employed properly, will minimize the state’s use and/or reliance on crude forms of violence. Till recently, it was quite fashionable in academic circles to focus almost exclusively on the matrix of late-capitalist
  • I Cringe Every Time I Hear From The Mainstream Media That Another Mass Shooting Has Occurred In America. (10/15/2015) I cringe not just for the obvious reasons of the carnage of victims’ bodies and grieving family members. I know that almost all the talking heads, long before we know any of the facts, will begin making the association between mental illness and horrific gun violence. Perpetrators will be called wackos, loonies, psychos, and crazies. Such portrayals are not likely to get money streaming in to help prevent such acts by getting persons with such labels help before they act. Social media extortions are just as bad, if not worse. I recently posted on Facebook, in the last decade we
  • Tragedy then Farce or Farce then Tragedy? Umpqua Community College Shooting and the Beta Uprising (10/7/2015) Several reports related to the Umpqua Community College shootings in Oregon have indicated that the shooter may have posted a warning to the Internet image-sharing site 4chan. A familiar trope there is that of the “Beta Uprising,” a fantasy rebellion staged by self-proclaimed “betas,” those who profess having trouble with women and other social difficulties. The “Betas” can be contrasted with “normies,” or otherwise socially competent and well-adjusted individuals. Anonymous users post violent fictional scenarios related to the revenge of the betas against the normies and one poster refers to California mass shooter Elliot Rodger as “our hero” celebrating the
  • Affordable Housing: Inequalities of Place and Communities (10/5/2015) Housing is an integral part of the American dream. At a minimum, it is seen as fulfilling one of our most basic needs, that of shelter. Beyond providing for the merely physical, however, housing symbolizes success and upward mobility, a place to establish roots, and a community. When I moved to Boston ten years ago I wanted to own a house and establish roots in an integrated, diverse, and engaged urban community. Even with my newly minted degree and job I found out that I could not afford to live in the city. The kicker was when I found out
  • Police Shootings: A New Problem or Business as Usual? (9/21/2015) Over the past year that has been a heightened awareness of police brutality of the ugliest form: police officers who shoot and kill unarmed citizens. It has been suggested by many that this is a new phenomenon. Others suggest that police across the United States routinely kill unarmed people and that those killed are most often young Black men. Although statistics are not readily available on this point, the best estimate is that on-duty police officers in the United States shoot and kill approximately 1,100 people each year. Almost all of those shooting are found to be justified. That is,
  • THE “CRIME” FETISH (9/7/2015) Today we are featuring a post from guest blogger Hal Pepinsky, who is known as the co-founder of ‘Peacemaking Criminology.’ Hal retired in 2009, but blogs regularly about crime and criminal justice at http://pepinsky.blogspot.com/ where this piece originally appeared. My recent critique of NYPD-based, CompStat enabled, “broken windows” police (“’Broken Windows’ Unjustified,” May 6) rests on two decades of trying to understand what “crime” and “criminality” statistics mean, from a law-school class in 1967, through the study “Explaining Police-Recorded Crime Trends in Sheffield (UK)” (Contemporary Crises, 11, pp. 59-73, Jan. 1987; pdf’s of this and other articles cited here available