Detail of "the margins come to center, or panopticism," by Savannah Kumar, 2017.

Prison Abolition, Human Rights, and Penal Reform: From the Local to the Global


Mass incarceration and overcriminalization in the United States are subject to critique by some on both the right and the left today. Many critics increasingly talk of prison abolition. At the same time, the international human rights movement continues to rely upon criminal punishment as its primary enforcement tool for many violations, even as it criticizes harsh prison conditions, the use of the death penalty, and lack of due process in criminal proceedings. What would it mean for the human rights movement to take seriously calls for prison abolitionism and the economic and racial inequalities that overcriminalization reproduces and exacerbates? And what might critics of the carceral regime in the United States have to learn from work done by international human rights advocates in a variety of countries?

September 26-28, 2019, the Rapoport Center will host in Austin an interdisciplinary conference to consider the relationships among the human rights, prison abolition, and penal reform movements. Do they share the same goals? Should they collaborate? If so, in what ways?

For more detailed information and to register, please visit the conference website.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore will offer the keynote lecture on September 26.

For more information, visit


The conference is co-sponsored by the Frances Tarlton “Sissy” Farenthold Endowed Lecture Series in Peace, Social Justice, and Human Rights; The Graduate School; Joynes Reading Room; Center for European Studies; John L. Warfield Center for African & African American Studies; Moody College of Communication; William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law; Center for Women's & Gender Studies; Capital Punishment Center; LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections; Department of Mexican American & Latina/o Studies; Center for Mexican American Studies; Center for the Study of Race and Democracy; Department of Sociology; Center for Population Research; New Writers Project; James A. Michener Center for Writers; Department of English; Program in Native American and Indigenous Studies; and the Rothko Chapel in Houston.

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Event series: Annual Conference