Discussion about overcriminalization comes to campus

Thursdays presentation on overciminalization in the United States will take place in Dunseth Auditorium located inside Harmon Hall.
Photo by Nick Feakes

NICK FEAKES | Reporter

Mass incarceration and overcriminalization in the United States will be the topics of a discussion at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21, in Dunseth Auditorium.

Rutgers University Professor Douglas Husak will address Lindenwood students, staff and faculty on the topic.

The talk will focus on the cause of the upward trend of incarceration in the U.S. since 1925, according to Carol Felzien, Lindenwood’s Hammond Institute director of administration.

Husak will kick off the event with his presentation, “The Partisan Politics of Overcriminalization.” Husak will also be joined at the event by Doug Burris, chief probation officer of the Eastern District of Missouri, and Critical Analyst Consultant Thomas Utterback.

Utterback is a former Missouri attorney who was incarcerated for 25 months after a conviction for money laundering in 1988. He will be sharing his experiences on Thursday.

“I think it’s a serious moral wrong to send people to prison for the recreational use of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin. What we need is a total decriminalization of drug use.”

Douglas Husak

Students can expect to hear about the changes Husak believes need to be made in the U.S. criminal justice system. After Husak’s presentation there will be a panel discussion about the topic of mass incarceration.

According to Husak’s Rutgers profile, his primary focus and research projects “are in the intersection of moral philosophy and criminal law, with a special interest in drug policy.”

He is also a proponent for decriminalization of drugs, believing that criminal punishment for drug use is ineffective and does more to damage the lives of the drug taker than taking drugs.

In an interview with the New York Times in 2015, Husak said, “I think it’s a serious moral wrong to send people to prison for the recreational use of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin. What we need is a total decriminalization of drug use.”

Burris was hired as the chief probation officer for the Eastern District of Missouri in 2000, and in his tenure has “helped transform the district into the model for a successful supervised-release program,” according to a summary of a documentary focused on the justice system in Missouri. When Burris started his job, the district exceeded the national federal average for parole revocations by 30 percent.

“I’m going to be attending the talk on Thursday because I believe partisanship in general has taken over many aspects of our society as we know,” criminal justice major Jack Huckstepp said. “I think the way we consume media has shielded that from us. So I’m interested in finding out how partisanship affects the criminal justice system from a knowledgeable source.”

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