Book Talk | Misdemeanorland
NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join for the launch of Issa Kohler-Hausmann’s Misdemeanorland: Criminal Courts and Social Control in an Age of Broken Windows Policing. The author will be present in conversation with Gabriel Sayegh and Paul Butler. Following the talk, the book will be available for sale, accompanied by a signing from the author.
Felony conviction and mass incarceration attract considerable media attention these days, yet the most common criminal-justice encounters are for misdemeanors, not felonies, and the most common outcome is not prison. In the early 1990s, New York City launched an initiative under the banner of Broken Windows policing to dramatically expand enforcement against low-level offenses. Misdemeanorland is the first book to document the fates of the hundreds of thousands of people hauled into lower criminal courts as part of this policing experiment.
Drawing on three years of fieldwork inside and outside of the courtroom, in-depth interviews, and analysis of trends in arrests and dispositions of misdemeanors going back three decades, Issa Kohler-Hausmann argues that lower courts have largely abandoned the adjudicative model of criminal law administration in which questions of factual guilt and legal punishment drive case outcomes. Due to the sheer volume of arrests, lower courts have adopted a managerial model–and the implications are troubling. Kohler-Hausmann shows how significant volumes of people are marked, tested, and subjected to surveillance and control even though about half the cases result in some form of legal dismissal. She describes in harrowing detail how the reach of America’s penal state extends well beyond the shocking numbers of people incarcerated in prisons or stigmatized by a felony conviction.
Revealing and innovative, Misdemeanorland shows how the lower reaches of our criminal justice system operate as a form of social control and surveillance, often without adjudicating cases or imposing formal punishment.
Issa Kohler-Hausmann is an Associate Professor of Law at Yale Law School and Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale. Her primary research interests are in criminal law, criminal procedure, empirical legal studies, tort law, sociology of law, and legal theory. Before coming to Yale, she was a Law Research Fellow at Georgetown University, and an associate with Ilissa Brownstein & Associates in New York.
Paul Butler is the Albert Brick Professor in Law at Georgetown University. He is the author of two books, Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice (New Press, 2009) and Chokehold: Policing Black Men (New Press, 2017). Prior to joining the academy, Professor Butler served as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, where his specialty was public corruption.
Gabriel Sayegh is co-founder and co-executive director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. For nearly 20 years, Sayegh has worked on campaigns to end mass incarceration and the war on drugs, promote fair economies and racial equity, and more. He is a core leader and strategist in the campaign to close Rikers Island Jail Complex (#CLOSErikers). Prior to co-founding Katal, Sayegh worked for 12 years at the Drug Policy Alliance, where he led and worked on policy reform campaigns in cities and states around the country.