Have Feminists Been Too Quick To Embrace Criminal Punishment?

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Prof. Aya Gruber teaches criminal law at the University of Colorado Law School. Her book The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration makes the case that many feminists have been too quick to push for more severe criminal punishments for crimes against women, and have as a result ended up legitimizing or even contributing to the expansion of mass incarceration. Prof. Gruber makes a strong argument against "carceral feminism," claiming that it sees "putting offenders in prison" as the solution to harms women face, but that this remedy at best only imperfectly guarantees justice, and at worst reproduces cruel racist state violence. In this provocative conversation, we discuss:

- How Prof. Gruber's experience in a public defender's office helped her see that some of the legal changes mainstream feminists pushed for ultimately ended up unfairly punishing poor men of color without helping women who were the victims of crimes

- Why courts, police, and prisons are not good at delivering anything resembling justice to the victims of sex crimes

- How trying to use prisons to punish people after offenses gets in the way of thinking about how to prevent the offenses from happening in the first place

- The Brock Turner case, in which a judge was recalled and removed from office after being perceived as lenient on a sex offender, and why Prof. Gruber thinks it was misguided to push for increased mandatory sentences for defendants like Turner

- Why feminism should abandon new calls for criminalization and instead see criminal law as an absolute last resort, addressing harms at their root causes

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