Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #302
CE Offered: BACB
The Trouble With Carceral-Centrism
Sunday, May 26, 2024
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Grand Ballroom Salon H
Area: CSS; Domain: Theory
Chair: Brett Gelino (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
CE Instructor: Brett Gelino, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: ROBERTO ASPHOLM (University of St. Thomas)

Over the last decade or so, mass incarceration and police violence have emerged as the center of liberal-progressive social justice discourse and political mobilization in the United States. As such, these phenomena might be considered the twin pillars of carceral-centrism, an interpretive and political tendency in which the pathologies of the criminal justice apparatus are thought to represent the nation’s gravest injustices, if not the wellsprings from which all other social problems flow. This presentation will trace the genesis of carceral-centric thinking and activism, offer critiques of both its interpretive and political tendencies, and consider alternatives. The implications of these alternatives for interpreting social problems more generally and for building social movements capable of addressing those problems will be examined.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Practitioners and researchers engaged with vulnerable populations and social problems of all kinds.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1. Describe the historical circumstances that gave rise to carceral-centrism and shaped its interpretive and political contours. 2. Assess the interpretive shortcomings of carceral-centrism and their political consequences. 3. Apply critiques of carceral-centrism to the interpretation of and strategic (political) implications for other social problems.
ROBERTO ASPHOLM (University of St. Thomas)
Roberto R. (Rob) Aspholm is an assistant professor of social work at the University of St. Thomas. His background is in community practice with young people in dispossessed urban communities, primarily on the South Side of Chicago and in East St. Louis, Illinois. Rob’s research focuses on the interconnections between street gangs, gun violence, social policy, and race and inequality. He is the author of Views from the Streets: The Transformation of Gangs and Violence on Chicago’s South Side, published by Columbia University Press in 2020. His work has appeared in scholarly journals including Critical Criminology, Social Service Review, and Advances in Social Work as well as popular outlets like Jacobin Magazine, Damage Magazine, and Current Affairs.



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