5 Questions for Keramet Reiter, Author of 23/7

Reiter jacket 211467.inddPlease join us on October 25th, at 7pm as we welcome Keramet Reiter to City Lights Bookstore. Keramet, an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine, will be in conversation with Keith Wattley about her brand new book, 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement (Published by Yale University Press). The Event is Co-sponsored by UnCommon Law. Keramet answered our 5 questions! More about her, and her answers, below.

The Event: Tuesday, October 25th, at 7pm. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco CA, 94133.

About 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement: Originally meant to be brief and exceptional, solitary confinement in U.S. prisons has become long-term and common. Prisoners spend twenty-three hours a day in featureless cells, with no visitors or human contact for years on end, and they are held entirely at administrators’ discretion. Keramet Reiter tells the history of one “supermax,” California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, whose extreme conditions recently sparked a statewide hunger strike by 30,000 prisoners. This book describes how Pelican Bay was created without legislative oversight, in fearful response to 1970s radicals; how easily prisoners slip into solitary; and the mental havoc and social costs of years and decades in isolation. The product of fifteen years of research in and about prisons, this book provides essential background to a subject now drawing national attention.

About Keramet Reiter: Keramet Reiter, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and at the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine, has been an advocate at Human Rights Watch and testified about the impacts of solitary confinement before state and federal legislators. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.


About Keith Wattley: Keith Wattley is the founder and executive director of UnCommon Law. He has been advocating for the rights of prisoners and parolees for nearly twenty years. Prior to launching UnCommon Law in 2006, Keith was a staff attorney at the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit law firm in Berkeley. He has represented thousands of prisoners in impact litigation and individual matters involving mental health care, gang validation, religious freedom, prison infirmaries, medical care, excessive force, visitation, parole consideration and parole revocation.

About Uncommon Law: UnCommon Law is a California non-profit law office whose mission is to help long-term prisoners understand and resolve the factors that contributed to their crimes so that they can safely be released. We work with prisoners for months or years in advance of their parole board hearings, and we represent them in those hearings and in court petitions challenging the parole board and the Governor.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Keramet Reiter: I first went to City Lights when I moved to Berkeley in the early 2000s after finishing college on the East Coast. I was impressed by all the poetry, but A Coney Island of the Mind seemed the most appropriate collection to buy.

CL: What’s the first book you read & what are you reading right now?

KR: The first chapter-book I remember reading was Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life. I live in L.A., so much of my “reading” now happens via audiobook while I’m stuck in traffic; I’m currently listening to Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

CL: Which 3 books would you never part with?

KR: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Ted Conover’s Newjack, and Jonathan Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

KR: John Cage meets pirate metal.

CL: If you opened a bookstore tomorrow, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?

KR: I’d open a mobile prison library, and aspire to have a poetry section as good as the one at City Lights.

Join us on October 25th at 7pm to welcome Keramet Reiter! Be sure to check out her website as well as UnCommon Law’s. For more information about our upcoming fall events, be sure to visit our complete events calendar.

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