Public Health Seminar Series:

Prisons, Policing, and Premature Death: Why Abolition Matters for Public Health by Roberto Sirvent, JD, PhD

Monday, February 25, 2019 12:00pm - 1:00pm Calit2 Auditorium OCW Video Archive
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.

Speaker Biography - Roberto Sirvent, JD, PhD

Roberto Sirvent, JD, PhD
Roberto Sirvent, JD, PhD Professor of Political and Social Ethics, Hope International University
Roberto Sirvent 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 writing a book called Bioethics and Black Suffering.

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