UH Manoa American Studies scholar selected for prestigious Soros Justice Fellowship

Assistant Professor Robert Perkinson among 17 Fellows nationwide to share in $1 million dollar grant pool

University of Hawaiʻi
Robert Perkinson, (808) 956-6599
UH Manoa Department of American Studies
Posted: Feb 13, 2006

The Open Society Institute (OSI) announced this week that UH Manoa Assistant Professor of American Studies Robert Perkinson has been named a Soros Justice Fellow for 2006.

Since its founding by the financier and philanthropist George Soros in 1993, OSI has emerged as the preeminent private foundation in the area of criminal justice scholarship. Perkinson is writing a history of American punishment, focusing on Texas, the country‘s most incarcerated and politically influential state.

Examining the dynamics of race, crime, culture, and politics from slavery to the present, his book argues that Texas has served as the crucible of a uniquely harsh, racialized, and profit-driven style of punishment that became a template for the nation in the post civil-rights era. Titled Texas Tough: The Rise of a Prison Empire, it is to be published by Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt.

Perkinson noted that his project has stark policy implications for Hawaiʻi and other states. "Texas has built an astonishingly vast and expensive prison bureaucracy," he said, "but it has ended up widening social inequality more than bringing down crime. In Hawaiʻi," he added, "I hope we learn from their mistakes and that we explore genuine alternatives to wasteful incarceration."

Seventeen people from ten states were selected for OSI Soros grants for 2006, and OSI has committed more than $1 million in grant support for the Fellowship program this year. "This grant program is highly-competitive," Perkinson said, "and I am honored to have been selected."

"Supporting dynamic individuals committed to building a stringer, more equitable justice system has been a hallmark of OSI‘s engagement in criminal justice reform," said Antonio Maciel, director of OSI‘s U.S. Justice Fund. "The fellowship program not only complements and deepens our work in this area, but it also contributes to the development and recognition of leaders in this field."