The conference has been organized by members of Virginia's departments of English, History and Politics. The organizers explain that it "will examine the historical, political, economic, and socio-cultural roots, as well as the myriad implications of the rise in incarceration in the United States." They continue:
The aim of this symposium, therefore, is to promote a serious, informed dialogue that will contribute to a growing national debate on the growth of the carceral state. We envision an intimate symposium featuring experts across the disciplines as well as policy practitioners. We will convene on the first day of the symposium with two panels focusing specifically on exploring the causes of the growth of the carceral state and growing racial disparities within it. The opening panel will consider the theoretical and historical foundations of rising imprisonment and shifting policy choices. The second will explore the politics of punishment and race. Following this session Angela Davis (author most recently of Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire and Are Prisons Obsolete?) will deliver a keynote address. On Friday, April 17, we will shift our attention to research that evaluates the consequences and implications of the rise in imprisonment. In these three panels, scholars will focus on the myriad implications of rising prison rates for forms of economic, social, and political exclusion in the United States.The keynote speaker is Anglea Y. Davis, Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz.