Detention on a Global Scale: Punishment and Beyond on April 9 & 10

The growing use of detention in the United States and around the world is the focus of the conference “Detention on a Global Scale: Punishment and Beyond,” cohosted by the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program and the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for Human Rights to be held on April 9 and 10 at Yale Law School.

A record number of people—more than 11 million—are in detention worldwide. The costs and harms of the overuse of incarceration have raised grave questions about its morality.   Calls are emerging from many quarters to consider reform of detention practices that seek to improve respect for democratic values and human rights.

These issues will occupy participants in this conference, the first joint Arthur Liman Public Interest Colloquium and Robert L. Bernstein Human Rights Fellowship Symposium. A diverse group – including scholars, former prisoners, prison officials, lawyers, judges, advocates law students, and Liman, Bernstein and Robina Fellows – will explore the theory, practice, and future of confinement.

The Colloquium begins with a discussion of Democracy and Detention. How and why have contemporary democracies have produced this expansive use of incarceration. What obligations does democracy impose on governments when they confine individuals? Which communities bear the brunt of incarceration? What variations exist—and why—across borders and governments?

A second panel, Detaining Outsiders: Migrants, Borders, and Security, explores the proliferation of immigration detention, as it becomes a common fixture of national strategies to manage geographical borders. The third panel, Punishment Before Trial, examines the issues associated with the more than 3.3 million people worldwide held in pretrial detention, sometimes for longer than the maximum sentences they would have received, if they were convicted. After a lunch focused on the Anatomy of American Punishment, the next session, Rights, Oversight, and Change, looks at the conditions of confinement and the roles played by “rights talk,” international law, and professional institutions. The concluding panel, The End(s) of Detention?, reflects on the history of prison reform and what “ends” ought to be in sight.

The institutional sponsors of this event are the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program and the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights. The Liman Program, founded in 1997 in honor of Arthur Liman ’57, convenes a colloquium yearly, teaches workshops at the Laws School, funds full-time postgraduate fellowships for Yale Law School graduates, and supports summer fellowships at Barnard, Brown, Harvard, Princeton, Spelman, and Yale. Liman Fellows—working on issues such as homelessness; indigent criminal defense; prisoners’, immigrants’, and workers’ rights; and juvenile justice—mirror Arthur Liman’s commitment to serve the needs of people and causes that can otherwise go unrepresented.

The Schell Center administers the Bernstein Fellowships, as well as the Robina Foundation Human Rights Fellowships. The Bernstein Fellowships were established at Yale Law School in 1997 to honor Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chair of Human Rights Watch and a tireless champion of human rights. Bernstein Fellowships enable recent Yale Law School graduates to work for a year to promote innovative and creative approaches to human rights advocacy. Robina Fellowships also provide a year of support to recent graduates of the Law School to work in international human rights courts and tribunals and intergovernmental and government human rights agencies.

This conference will bring current, past, and recently selected Liman, Bernstein, and Robina Fellows to the Law School to participate in the discussions and related events.