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Center for Criminal Justice Hosts Book Talk with The Feminist War on Crime Author Aya Gruber



Brooklyn Law School’s Center for Criminal Justice hosted author Aya Gruber, professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School, to discuss her recent book, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration (Cambridge University Press, 2020). In her book, Gruber examines the conflict inherent between the punitive impulse of what she defines as “legal feminism” and the issue of hyper-incarceration in the United States, and, in doing so, critiques the state’s ability to combat sexual and domestic violence through law and punishment.

“The book is important and necessary,” said Kate Mogulescu, professor of clinical law and co-director of the center, who moderated the discussion. “Most people’s conception of feminist history only starts at a specific point, but [Gruber] highlights organizing work done by different types of feminists much earlier than that which has affected the growth of the carceral state.”

Gruber said she “wrote this book for [her] law-school-aged self,” torn between a skepticism of state power and feminist orthodoxy that saw the importance of a strong response to gender violence. Gruber shares a wider historical lens with a less “monolithic” view of feminism, distinguishing between those who saw the legal tools of the state as oppressive against those who saw them as the normative mechanisms of justice.

“As lawyers, we understand that our legal frames are necessarily state-centric, which can make us maybe more sanguine about law and law enforcement,” said Gruber. “We should realize that we should be somewhat careful about successes within that system, and reform from within. While many of the reforms feminists have made and proposed have made the carceral state more feminist, it certainly also made feminism more carceral.”

Gruber also recognized the impressive scholarship of the Brooklyn Law School faculty in this area, citing the works of Professors Mogulescu, Cynthia Godsoe, Alice Ristroph, and Jocelyn Simonson.

The Center’s book talk has become an annual event, bringing noted criminal law scholars and activists for critical conversations on criminal justice law and policy. Past speakers include Danielle Sered, author of Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair, (The New Press, 2019); Issa Kohler-Hausman, author of Misdemeanorland: Criminal Courts and Social Control in an Age of Broken Windows Policing (Princeton University Press, 2018); and Dr. Heather Ann Thompson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winner Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Pantheon, 2016).

Read more about the Center for Criminal Justice here

Read more about Professor Aya Gruber here