The Points Interview: Hadar Aviram

Editor’s Note: Today’s interview features Hadar Aviram, a professor of law and the Harry and Lillian Hastings Research Chair at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law. Her new book, Cheap on Crime: Recession-Era Politics and the Transformation of American Punishment (UC Press, 2015) is slated for release in January 2015 and available for pre-order from UC Press and Amazon. Below, Aviram gives Points readers a sneak peek at her argument:

screenshot_1164Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

When there’s an economic downturn in a country–does it punish more harshly or more leniently? In 2009, for the first time in almost 40 years, the number of inmates in the United States has declined. The federal government is rethinking its commitment to the drug war. States are abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, and rethinking their sentencing and incarceration practices. My book examines the ways in which the financial crisis has created an opportunity to reform our broken, unsustainable incarceration policies, and gives the readers a tour of the good, bad and ugly consequences of this transformation–including geriatric paroles, rolling incarceration costs onto the inmates themselves, and encouraging prison space bargaining between states, private prison companies, and local facilities. The book also tries to predict the future and sustainability of this new trend.

What do you think a bunch of alcohol and drug historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

Anyone who has been following the financial expenditures on the drug war might find it interesting to ask whether, now, this trend is reversed, and to examine the extent to which financial reasoning has played a role in the “drug truce” we are experiencing on the federal, state, and local level. I expect alcohol and drug scholars will be interested in the analysis of these campaigns, and particularly in their bipartisan appeals.

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