“What a widely attacked experiment got right on the harmful effects of prison”-Professor Ashely Rubin Writes Article for The Conversation Canada

Professor Ashley Rubin has written an article for The Conversation Canada asking whether the critiques of the Stanford Prison experiment are missing the mark. According to Rubin, while the Stanford Prison Experiment has been widely criticized for its research design and execution, it effectively illustrates the harmful effects prisons have on both prisoners and prison workers.

Her piece discusses the robust prison research that found similar results as the Stanford experiment. Such research highlights negative effects such as high rates of depression, suicide, PTSD and anxiety along with the corruptibility that prisons have on those who live and work inside.

Professor Rubin is an associate professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. Her research interests include the dynamics of penal change, focusing on the introduction of new punishments in America and England from the seventeenth century through the early twentieth century.

An excerpt from the article is posted below.

In news articles, the Stanford experiment has been “debunked” and “exposed as a fraud.” Its findings have been declared “very wrong” and “fake.” It has been further criticized for experimenter interference, faked behaviour from participants and for research design problems, among other things.

These serious critiques have generated much discussion in academic circles and in news articles about what, if anything, we can learn from the experiment.

And yet, as someone who studies prisons, I’m struck by how much the Stanford Prison Experiment got right. A wealth of other research suggests prisons have serious detrimental effects on prisoners and prison workers alike.

What the research says

Living and working in prison is extremely stressful and demoralizing.

Some people are better at repelling these effects than others. Even so, prisoners and prison workers suffer from high rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, PTSD and other devastating conditions. For many prisoners, these conditions continue after prison and can be worsened by the transition into the free world.

Not just prisoners

Prison staff are also affected. The history of American imprisonment is also filled with examples of people with good intentions becoming “corrupted” by the prison.

Pennsylvania’s Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829. Progressive Philadelphia penal reformers designed Eastern to be more humane than other prisons, with prisoners’ physical and mental health in mind. They implemented a routine — combining work, education, mentorship and outdoor exercise — to benefit both prisoners and society. Finally, they sought to protect prisoners’ identities so they could reenter society without stigma.

Within five years of the prison’s opening, however, the penal reformers, now prison administrators, had betrayed their humanitarian goals.

Continue Reading…

 

Professor Ashley Rubin considers the meaning of criminology in Law and Society Association blog post

Professor Ashley Rubin recently published a blog post for the Law and Society Association’s Collaborative Research Network Punishment and Society entitled “What is Criminology? Who is a Criminologist?”. In the post, Professor Rubin discusses the difficulty in defining criminology as a broad, interdisciplinary field and proposes three new subfields within the discipline to ensure greater precision in determining what exactly criminologists study. Professor Rubin is an Assistant Professor in Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Her current research focuses on the dynamics of penal change in America and England from the seventeenth century through to the early twentieth century, and she is currently writing a monograph on the role of prison administrators at the infamous Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. We have a posted an excerpt of the post below.

What is Criminology? Who is a Criminologist?

Today marks the end of the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology. Even before this week, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about criminology, its meaning, and who/what it includes. As an interdisciplinary scholar, academic labels mean a lot to me. At JSP, it was drilled into us that we need to demonstrate our disciplinary identity: interdisciplinary scholars often have to “prove” they “are” a sociologist, political scientist, historian, etc. and sometimes get left in the margins when they fall to make this case, falling through the interstices of competing fields. Criminology is an interdisciplinary discipline—some programs more than others—but this issue of identity still matters. 
Living in Canada has also made me question my understanding of criminology. For many reasons, the Canadian academe is much more internationally aware than the American academe: as members of the British Commonwealth, Canadians have more contact with British, Australian, and New Zealander thought and developments. As in many countries, Canadians are also more likely to read American journals *and* their own countries journals, whereas in the US, one might read a British journal regularly, but not much else beyond American journals. Consequently, there are different perspectives than one finds in American academic work alone and, as a further consequence, the same terms and fields have different meanings and theories. Notably, the definition—or at least understanding and content—of criminology is different in Canada: there is a much bigger emphasis on critical perspectives (critical criminology is huge in Canada), so there is a lot of feminist, colonial/post-colonial, critical race, Indigenous, and other perspectives not found in mainstream American criminology. With a stronger influence from the Continent and Great Britain, there is also a more (or different) theoretical orientation. Americans, I have learned, have a particular understanding of theory and methods that is different from the Continental approach, although I’ve not yet been able to articulate this difference. (For now, think how Foucault is different from, say, Rothman in their approaches to prison history. Both are great (and limited) in their own way, but the two men might have a very interesting discussion about what they mean by theory and how they use evidence or why they care about the prison as a social artifact.) From an American perspective, one might say the Canadian/British/Continental approach is less rigorous, but that would be unfair and American-centric; from a Canadian or British perspective, American ideas might be considered narrow, simplistic, and even naive.
 Read the full post here.

UTM News profiles Professor Ashley Rubin’s research on prisons

Ashley RubinUTM News recently ran an article discussing Professor Ashley Rubin’s research. Professor Rubin joined the Department of Sociology in 2016 and has undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga Campus. The full article is available on the UTM News site. We have pasted an excerpt below.

 

 

Crime and Punishment: UTM prof studies early American prisons

Blake Eligh

U of T Mississauga assistant professor Ashley Rubin has been fascinated with prisons since her undergraduate years. Rubin, who joined UTM’s Department of Sociology in 2016, studies the evolution of penal systems in America and England from the seventeenth century through the early twentieth century, with a focus on the societal factors that create changes in penal practices.

“I want to understand why we do the things we do,” she says. “Why does punishment take a particular form, and how do those ideas spread?”

She is currently completing a study of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. The prison, which operated from 1829 to 1971, housed between 500 and 2,000 inmates for a variety of crimes including: larceny; burglary; rape; manslaughter; second-degree murder; counterfeiting; and property offences (including horse theft). While the facility is notorious for famous inmate and mobster Al Capone, it has a more important place in American penal history for its unique approach to prisoner treatment and rehabilitation. As part of the Pennsylvania prison system, Eastern State provided a stepping stone between early Colonial incarceration practices and modern-day “Supermax” prisons.

Read full article.

Welcome New Faculty

This year the Department of Sociology welcomes ten new faculty members into our community of scholars. This is the largest cohort of new faculty members we have seen in decades. They cover research and teaching interests ranging from classical theory to criminology and immigration studies and will help shape the character of the department in the years to come. Though housed across the three campuses, all faculty join together in contributing to the tri-campus graduate department.

Professor Ellen Berrey joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, Mississauga teaching in the area of Law and Society. She graduated with a PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University in 2008 and has previously taught at the University at Buffalo, SUNY and at the University of Denver.

Professor Irene Boeckmann is a new faculty member in Family and Demography, teaching at the St. George campus. Professor Boeckmann completed her PhD at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2014 and spent 2015 as a post-doctoral fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany.

Professor Emine Fidan Elcioglu brings her expertise in political sociology and immigration to the University of Toronto at Scarborough. Professor Elcioglu received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 2016.

Professor Steve G. Hoffman received his PhD at Northwestern University in 2009 and taught for several years at the University at Buffalo, SUNY before coming to the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Professor Hoffman teaches in the area of social theory and the sociology of disaster.

Professor Rachel La Touche comes to the University of Toronto at St George this year where she is teaching in the areas of research methods and inequality. She received her PhD from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2016 and has previously taught at the University of Mannheim-Germany and at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research(ICPSR) Summer Program at the University ofMichigan.

Professor Yoonkyung Lee joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, St. George. Professor Lee received her PhD at Duke University in 2006 and has previously taught at Binghamton University. Professor Lee is a political sociologist with a focus on Korean studies.

Professor Sida Liu is a new faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Professor Liu is a specialist in the sociology of law. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2009. Before coming to Toronto, Professor Liu taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also currently a Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah received his doctorate in 2014 from the Centre for Criminology and Socio-legal Studies here at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Before coming back to Toronto, Professor Owusu-Bempah taught for a year at the Indiana University, Bloomington. Professor Owusu-Bempah is a specialist in policing and race.

Professor Kim Pernell comes to the University of Toronto, St. George with expertise in economic sociology, organizational sociology and social policy. Professor Pernell received a PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 2016.

Professor Ashley Rubin joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, Mississauga bringing expertise in the sociology of punishment and prisons. Professor Rubin received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013 and previously taught at Florida State University.