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Colloquium: Brittany Friedman, University of Southern California

October 12, 2022 @ 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Born in Blood: Death Work, White Power, and the Rise of the Black Guerilla Family


Drawing on several hours of life history interviews and hundreds of archival documents, Friedman traces the institutional conditions that spurred the rise of the Black Guerilla Family within the California Department of Corrections. She advances a critical race theory of prison order, emphasizing how institutions operationalize the logics of white supremacy and divide and conquer using official and extralegal controls. Friedman documents how in an effort to annihilate Black prisoners aligned with political movements, the California Department of Corrections used official controls such as surveillance and indeterminate solitary confinement, bolstered by extralegal controls, such as correctional officer alliances with white supremacist prisoners and forced gladiator fights. These control techniques were eventually wielded against each subsequent problem population that the Department of Corrections came to find threatening. Implications for racial inequality and punishment are discussed.



Brittany Friedman is a sociologist of punishment and social control, researching race and ethnicity, inequality, institutional predation, and access to justice. She is a 2021-2022 American Bar Foundation/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Faculty Scholar, examining the relationship between legal representation, pay-to-stay, and civil recoupment strategies. Her ABF/JPB project is titled “Pay-to-Stay as a Civil Justice Crisis: How Civil Lawsuits Against Incarcerated People for the Cost of Incarceration Deepen Socioeconomic Inequality.”

Her first book, which is under contract with The University of North Carolina Press, is tentatively titled, Born in Blood, a highly anticipated book that traces how control strategies were institutionalized and designed to eradicate Black political protest and the implications for contemporary prison order and racial inequality. The book is listed in Sociology, African American Studies, and the special series, “Justice, Power, and Politics,” home to a long list of award winning scholarly monographs.

Friedman is a member of the Multi-State Study of Monetary Sanctions funded by Arnold Ventures (Dr. Alexes Harris, PI), researching how monetary sanctions in the criminal legal system impact reentry, inequality, and poverty.

She is Co-PI (w/ Dr. April Fernandes and Gabriela Kirk) of a comparative study of inmate reimbursement practices, also known as “pay-to-stay.” Their project expands the study of monetary sanctions to include empirical analyses of the historical and contemporary evolution of pay-to-stay practices across states. They have submitted written testimony at the state (Connecticut General Assembly Judiciary Committee) and federal (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary) levels, summarizing their peer-reviewed research findings for lawmakers.

Friedman is PI (Co-PIs Dr. Paul Hirschfield and Alexis Karteron, J.D.) of an ongoing study of Covid-19 penal policy, which traces how formal and informal practices affect the conditions of confinement in prisons.

Dr. Friedman’s research has been supported by external funding from the American Bar Foundation, National Science Foundation, American Society of Criminology, and Arnold Ventures, and university funding from several institutions.


October 12, 2022
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM


UNC Social Forces
View Organizer Website


Hamilton Hall, Conference Room 271
102 Emerson DR
CHAPEL HILL, NC 27707 United States
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