How America's Public Safety System Hurts Our Democracy

Minneapolis, MN

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Event Details

How America's Public Safety System

Hurts Our Democracy


Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Noon to 1:15 p.m.

Humphrey School, Humphrey Forum

Professor Vesla Weaver, Yale University

Moderated by Chris Uggen, Department of Sociology

America jails more than three times as many people today than in 1980 and now leads the world for incarceration rates. One third of America’s adult population has been pulled into the criminal justice system and are now on file in at least one state. The effects on our democracy range from the denial of vote to felons in some states to deeper alienation from the basic rights of citizenship. Professor Vesla Weaver maps out the corrosive effects of America's criminal justice system that leaves millions of Americans and especially minorities convinced that government is closed, hostile, and arbitrary.

Vesla Mae Weaver was on the faculty of the University of Virginia before coming to Yale in 2012. Weaver is broadly interested in understanding racial inequality in the United States, how state policies shape citizenship, and the political causes and consequences of the growth of the criminal justice system in the United States. Her newest book project with Amy Lerman, Policing Citizenship: America’s Antidemocratic Institutions and the New Civic Underclass, is concerned with the effects of increasing punishment and surveillance in America on democratic inclusion, particularly for the black urban poor.  She is also the author of Frontlash: Civil Rights, the Carceral State, and the Transformation of American Politics (under contract with Cambridge), which uncovers a connection between the movement for civil rights and the development of punitive criminal justice. The book grows out of her dissertation, winner of the Best Dissertation Award in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics given by the American Political Science Association.  Weaver is also the co-author of Creating a New Racial Order, which explores how multiracialism, immigration, the genomics revolution, and generational changes are reshaping the racial order in the United States (with Professors Jennifer Hochschild and Traci Burch).  Weaver’s research has been supported by fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Brookings Institution.  She has previously worked for the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  At the University of Virginia, she spearheaded the Working Group on Racial Inequality.


This event is free and open to the public. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity employer and educator. For disability accommodations, please call 612-625-5340 or email