Sentencing for both violent and non-violent crimes in America routinely reaches decades into the future. Under the politicized auspices of judges and prosecutors who are “tough on crime,” defendants are sentenced to death; to life imprisonment; even—dramatically but illogically—to multiple consecutive life sentences.
What is the purpose of this extreme sentencing? To dissuade people from engaging in criminal acts? To keep our society safe from dangerous people? To bring about suffering or to exact revenge? Which of these goals are articulated, and which are subtext? More importantly, which of these intended goals—whether stated or unstated—are actually met? And what is the effect of such punishment on offenders, on victims, and on our society?
The American approach to criminal justice and incarceration differs from that of our international counterparts in fundamental ways. In this public talk, I will read from On Revenge, a chapter from my current book project, Acquainted With the Night: Mental Illness in America’s Prisons, which examines the origins, philosophies, effects, and discourse of punishment in the United States and abroad.
Dr. Christine Montross
A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction, Dr. Christine Montross is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She is also a staff psychiatrist at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. She received her undergraduate degrees and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she also taught writing classes as a lecturer following graduation. She was born and raised in Indianapolis.
Dr. Montross's first book, Body of Work, was named an Editors' Choice by The New York Times and one of The Washington Post's best nonfiction books of 2007. Her second book, Falling Into the Fire, was named a New Yorker Book to Watch Out For. She has also written for many national publications including The New York Times, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Washington Post Book World, Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine.