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“Foucault advised me…”

One of those little insights that come up from time to time of a person’s personal legacy:

Q. You’ve written extensively about the criminal justice system and in particular about parole, which California uses to monitor ex-offenders in the community after their release from prison. How did you originally get interested in parole?

A [Jonathan Simon]. Largely by accident. As a graduate student here at Berkeley’s law school in the 1980s, I was hunting around for a dissertation topic and was very interested in risk, dangerousness, and assessments of risk. (The French sociologist Michel Foucault, a visiting scholar here in 1983, had advised me to pursue those themes. And my Berkeley mentor, the late Sheldon Messinger — a leading scholar from the golden age of prison sociology in the 1960s — suggested that I consider looking at parole, since to some extent it’s about assessing risk.)


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