Introduction to the Prison Overcrowding Crisis Colloquium


I welcome all of you to this program sponsored by the New York University Review of Law and Social Change. The idea for this colloquium series began in one of my constitutional law classes. The subject was obscenity, and I asked a woman student in the class if she would discuss the feminist position on obscenity. As you know, in a law school class, at least in New York City, it is difficult to generate two sides to the question of obscenity. Almost everyone believes that the first amendment protects obscenity. Despite this, some feminists charge that obscenity is degrading and is a form of violence. This argument jolted many of the students and led to the best classroom discussion of that topic that I have heard. Following the discussion, I suggested to the Review that it might institute a series of annual colloquia, based on scholarly papers, which rather than taking a traditional liberal versus conservative approach, would present topics where people with fundamentally similar outlooks might have differences of opinion. The Review has successfully addressed issues pertaining to religious cults, campaign financing and labor relations.

This year the Review organized a program on the vitally important topic of prison overcrowding. I want to express my appreciation to the students and others who have worked so hard to make this program possible: Karl Schwartz, Peter Koneazny, Lester Lenoff, Martin Fleisher, andJohn Gevertz of the Review staff and Davida Wittman, Office Manager of the Review. I am grateful to members of our own lawv school faculty who have contributed to the colloquium. Professor James Jacobs will present his study of the politics of prison construction. Many of the moderators have been drawn from the ranks of our faculty including Graham Hughes, professor of criminal law and legal philosophy; Claudia Angelos, who is a member of the clinical faculty; David Richards, professor and philosopher of constitutional law, Daniel Pochoda, a member of our adjunct faculty; and Robert McKay, whom you all know, my predecessor as Dean and now the Director of the Institute of Judicial Administration. Our other speakers and panelists include noted academicians, correctional practitioners and attorneys. I would like to thank them along with those I have left out, who have been helpful in making this program possible.

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