May 16, 2022

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm, Eastern Time

ACS New York: Pleading Out: How Plea Bargaining Creates a Permanent Criminal Class

Roosevelt House is pleased to present a discussion of Pleading Out: How Plea Bargaining Creates a Permanent Criminal Class by Dan Canon. In this important new study, Canon delivers an incisive critique of the role of plea bargaining in the criminal justice system. The author will be in conversation with Hunter College professor of sociology, Dr. CalvinJohn Smiley.


Precisely reasoned and full of heart-wrenching stories, Pleading Out makes the case that the practice of plea bargaining, while swiftly disposing of cases, helps to fuel an unjust system. In so doing, Canon argues that plea bargaining produces an underclass of people who face restrictions from voting, working, and otherwise participating in society. In addition, he closely considers the systemic conditions that lead people to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit in exchange for lesser sentences—while guilty parties face no consequences.


Despite a common perception that jury trials form the backbone of our criminal justice system, Pleading Out reveals that the vast majority of cases never make it to trial; instead, almost all criminal convictions are the result of plea bargaining deals made entirely out of view of the public eye. With fierce urgency and an insider’s perspective, Pleading Out seeks to expose the source of this problem in America’s criminal justice system—while also offering a prescription for meaningful change. 


Dan Canon is a civil rights lawyer and a law professor at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. In his practice, he has served as counsel for plaintiffs in the US Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which brought marriage equality to all 50 states, and in a number of other high-profile civil and constitutional rights cases involving wrongful convictions, inmates' rights, abuse and overreach by law enforcement, and academic freedom. His writing has appeared in The National Law Journal; Above the Law; Salon; and Slate, and he has been quoted extensively in Time, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He is also the producer of Midwesticism, a series of documentary shorts profiling activists in Indiana and surrounding areas.


CalvinJohn Smiley, Ph.D., is a faculty member of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Program and an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Hunter College, where he teaches courses on the sociology of law, race and ethnic relations, and criminal justice policy. His scholarship has appeared in The Prison JournalRace, Ethnicity, and Education; and Punishment & Society. With Dr. Keesha M. Middlemass, he is co-editor of Prisoner Reentry in the 21st Century: Critical Perspectives of Returning Home. He is now writing a book that extends his reentry research to explore how men and women navigate the reentry process with diminished legal rights and amplified social stigma, and another about the impact of the #Defund movement on intersections of mass incarceration, abolition, and global solidarity.

Register here.