As students filed into Goldwin Smith Lewis Auditorium last Tuesday for GOVT 3141: Prisons, a different face than Prof. Mary Katzenstein, government, greeted them at the front of the room. Brian Fischer, commissioner of corrections for New York State, was brought in to talk about the Prison system in America.
“We talk about the structure of society that often ends up directing people to the prison system,” Katzenstein said of the class.
Late last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report revealing that more than three times the number of black Americans live in prison as in college dorms.
The news is not shocking to black student leaders at Cornell, who along with the rest of the country have seen the number of black prisoners increase dramatically since the 1980s.
“The study seems like a complete oversimplification of the issue — in light of all the current cases of discrimination we have seen in our local community, this shouldn’t be a surprise,” said Kalisa Martin ’08, senior advisor of the prison activist coalition at Cornell.