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The United States now locks up more people than almost any country in the history of the world, and by virtually any measure, prisons have not worked, said Paul Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University, during a UC Berkeley lecture in October. Instead, Butler advocates abolishing prisons and finding alternative ways to deal with those who cause harm — something that he says would create a safer, more just society.

"Prison has been a miserable failure," said Butler, also a legal analyst on MSNBC. "It doesn't work. Most young people who come home from prison wind up right back there within two years. Prisons themselves are horrible places. They're violent, they stink, they're dangerous, they're noisy. It's really hard to leave a space like that better than when you came in."

Butler, author of the 2017 book Chokehold: Policing Black Men, gave a talk called "Prison Abolition, and a Mule" on Oct. 16, 2019, as part of UC Berkeley's Jefferson Memorial Lectures, sponsored by the Graduate Division. It was also part of the campus's yearlong initiative, 400 Years of Resistance to Slavery and Injustice, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies.

Listen and read a transcript on Berkeley News.


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