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Prisons, Policing, and Premature Death: Why Abolition Matters for Public Health

  • UCLA Fielding School of Public Health 650 Charles E Young Drive S Los Angeles United States (map)

Join the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice and Health for our final speaker of the 2018-2019 year: Dr. Roberto Sirvent


Wednesday, May 15, 2019


12:00 - 1:00PM


CHS 43-105

Seminar Abstract

This seminar examines the historical roots of prisons and policing—especially as they relate to the institution of slavery—and how movements for abolition can inform debates about public health. For one, contrary to well-meaning ‘reform’ efforts, we examine how neither the police nor prisons can ever be appropriate or adequate mental health responders. Second, drawing on the work of decolonial theorists and prison abolitionists, this seminar tries to expose the contradictions of correctional medicine and prison hospice care. In other words, the prison is a place that produces mass death yet purports to be a place that can help people die with dignity. Thus, it is not only important for public health practitioners to study how the state can remedy mass suffering, but also how the state inflicts mass suffering on its people, especially on communities of color. Throughout the seminar, we examine alternatives to prisons and police. These alternatives help us imagine more creative ways to deal with interpersonal harm and address the root causes of crime and mental illness. Ultimately, the seminar invites public health scholars to be more sensitive to the daily trauma, terror, and anxiety experienced by Black communities under the eye of the U.S. police state.


Robert Sirvent.jpg

Roberto Sirvent, JD, PhD is Professor of Political and Social Ethics at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA. He also teaches regularly at Claremont School of Theology and Yale University’s Summer Bioethics Institute. Roberto earned an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law, and a Ph.D from the London School of Theology in the UK. He is co-author (with Danny Haiphong) of the forthcoming book, American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News—From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror. Roberto edits the Black Agenda Report Book Forum and has held appointments as a Visiting Scholar at Yale University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Copenhagen. He’s currently working on two book projects: one on Bioethics and Black Suffering and the other called Abolitionist Ethics and Mutual Aid.

Earlier Event: May 10
Faculty Writing Circle
Later Event: May 17
Faculty Writing Circle