Dr. Chris Suprenant, Professor of Ethics, Strategy, and Public Policy at the University of New Orleans (UNO), recently presented as a guest speaker of Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. The event was organized by the director of the Law and Liberal Arts minor, Dr. Bas van der Vossen (Philosophy).
Suprenant spoke on several issues related to the American criminal justice system, starting with the fact that the United States leads the world in per capita incarceration and that 2.3 million people, or 0.8% of the United States’ population, are behind bars. There are stark racial and ethnic disparities in American prisons; as whites are typically underrepresented in the incarcerated population, blacks and Latinos are over-represented. Suprenant pointed out that while jails overflow with individuals who, unable to afford bail, await their trials, 70% of Americans in local jails are ultimately not convicted of any crime.
When members of low-income minority communities, such as those of New Orleans, are incarcerated, their inability to afford bail prevents them from returning to work and paying their bills.
“The amount of money you see in these communities is not a lot, and what we’re doing is taking people’s freedom away… it’s important to understand what the situation in these communities is like, how they are being harmed right now, and what we think are the solutions out of that,” said Suprenant.
Tiffany Ip (‘23, Screenwriting Major, Law and Liberal Arts Minor) appreciated the subject of Dr. Suprenant’s research, stating that issues of restorative justice “affect a lot more avenues and different types of communities than we might imagine, so I think it’s really important that people become more educated about it.”
Surprenant is the UNO Honors Program Director, the Director of the UNO Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Policy Institute, and the author of the book, Injustice for All: How Financial Incentives Corrupted and Can Fix the US Criminal Justice System. Named by the Princeton Review as one of the “Best 300 Professors” in the country, Suprenant primarily centers his work on criminal justice reform and the revitalization of at-risk communities.