I am a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Washington who researches the criminal justice paradigm and its practices (policing, prosecution, and punishment) in the context of racial, ethnic, and indigenous equity.
Around the world, historically marginalized groups experience disproportionate amounts of police contact and incarceration. This is may be unsurprising to critical race theorists and scholars of racial capitalism – it is naive to expect state violence to be perpetrated in a racially equitable way in a world order built atop colonialism and ethno-racial hierarchies. However, much about the intersection of ethno-racial distinctions and legal state violence needs clarification. For example, a pattern of ethno-racial disproportion in punishment is widespread, across countries with significantly varied histories, politics, and cultures. This weakens claims that attribute racial disparities in criminal justice solely to country-specific factors. The unique histories and institutions of countries are important to consider, especially those having to do with slavery, yet the seeming ubiquity of ethno-racially disproportionate prison populations suggests a widening of the analysis to include cross-national factors as well. Thus, I look to the criminal legal paradigm, the international norm of a deterrence and punishment-based approach to formal social control. I show that criminal legal systems tend to focus state violence upon historically marginalized groups and argue that this occurs, in part, due to the motivating logic of the criminal legal paradigm. I expose the fundamental concepts and assumptions of the criminal legal paradigm as conflicting with values of ethnic, racial, and indigenous equity. Furthermore, I examine when and where the criminal legal paradigm influences the distribution of state violence. In conclusion, I consider alternatives to the criminal legal paradigm that are both less violent and more facilitative of commitments to equality under law and nondiscrimination. The normative message of this dissertation is that violent approaches to formal social control are likely to result in unjustifiable ethno-racial inequities; other approaches are available and should be considered from the standpoint of overcoming the legacy of colonialism.
I was honored to be nominated for the university wide Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018. My “Crime, Politics, and Justice”, “Ethics in Law and Justice”, and “Drugs in Society” classes have ranked in the top 10% of all University of Washington classes in terms of student satisfaction.
I co-authored "The Hidden Subsidies of Rural Prisons: Race, Space and the Politics of Cumulative Disadvantage", which appears in the journal Punishment and Society (2017).