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In-Depth Interview: Author and Radical Criminologist Tony Platt Works to Reform the ‘Carceral State’

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For 50 years, Tony Platt has worked to reform our criminal justice and prison systems, which he accurately describes as the “carceral state”.Platt is the author of Beyond These Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States, and in this conversation we talk about the origins of the world’s largest imprisoned population, and the deep bias of the criminal justice system that disproportionately locks up black and brown men, and a growing number of women.

Born in Britain, Platt studied at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago, and taught at Berkeley until he was denied tenure; he later learned that FBI informants were in his classes at Berkeley.  He went on to teach for years at California State University, Sacramento.

In his book, Platt offers a sweeping critique of our criminal justice system, and in this interview we touch on some of them.  He shares his deep knowledge of the history of our system, which he sees as more than just cops, courts, and prisons.  He argues that government and politicians exercise control over minority populations, including gays prior to liberation using the justice and prison systems.

We discuss the work of Prof. Rashad Shabazz of Arizona State University, whose 2017 book, Spacializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago also addresses the carceral state and its use against African Americans.  You can hear the full interview here.

We also discuss the current risk to prison populations posed by the coronavirus pandemic.