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Discussing inequality and the criminal justice system with Yale professor Vesla Weaver

Vesla Weaver, a Yale professor who studies inequality as it relates to the criminal justice system, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh in-studio.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Vesla Weaver, a Yale professor who studies inequality as it relates to the criminal justice system, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh in-studio.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh was joined by Vesla Weaver, an associate professor of political science and African-American studies at Yale University, ahead of a talk slated for Wednesday afternoon in Grand Center.

Weaver is the co-author of “Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control,” and “Creating a New Racial Order.”  Weaver researches inequality in the United States, which she argues is exacerbated by the broad reach of the criminal justice system.

On the program, Weaver discussed the breadth of her research, from charting demographic change to understanding inequality in the criminal justice system.

Before joining the program, she visited Ferguson, which has factored into her research.

“I was shocked that an entire discipline had not recognized that several municipalities were engaged in projects of extraction, seizing the resources of their very citizens,” Weaver said. “We weren’t studying that, we didn’t know this was occurring. In the world of criminal justice experts, we had our eyes trained on incarceration and the effects of incarceration on health, economic prospects and on voting but not looking at policing.”

Weaver said that the very understanding of civic engagement is changing due to the attention drawn to policing in Ferguson, and across the country.

“Citizens don’t learn about political life through contacts with civic officials, civic leaders, or by going to City Hall,” Weaver said. “They also learn about government through contacts with other bureaucratic agencies: things like welfare offices, housing authorities, schools and police. For communities like Michael Brown’s, the police are the first and often the most memorable interface with government. What was shocking for me was that we as a discipline did not have a sense of this, and I’ll go beyond our discipline: the American people in general did not have a sense that people were being policed for petty things, minor transgression, and being routed into the criminal justice system.”

Listen as Weaver discusses he recent research into inequality and the criminal justice system, as well as the interplay between policing and incarceration:

Related Event

What: Portals: Conversations the Police by the Policed, Dr. Vesla Weaver
When: Wednesday, March 22 from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Where: UMSL at Grand Center, 3651 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63108
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.