Sociology Professor Cautions Against Making False Distinctions Between Incarcerated Youth and Adults

With the U.S. incarcerated population projected to grow by three percent in the next three years, criminal justice reforms must go beyond granting leniency to young offenders and “extend mercy to all individuals who have transgressed the law,” says Alexandra Cox in a Jan. 14 article published in the online Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

Alexandra Cox

Alexandra Cox

In “The Perils of False Distinctions Between Juveniles and Adults in Prison,” Cox, an associate professor of sociology, advocates for criminal justice reforms that address the “politically unpalatable” issue of sentencing for violent offenders.

Cox cites a recent National Academy of Sciences report that concludes that “lengthy prison sentences are ineffective as a crime control measure,” and argues that reducing sentencing for violent offenders is the only way to reduce mass incarceration and achieve social justice.

As liberal reformers and the public media advocate for the need to keep youth and nonviolent offenders out of the criminal justice system, they have created a false distinction in the public’s mind between the “dangerous and the ‘rest’”, notes Cox.

“While many support the idea of prison reform due to their exposure to the growing national media on the subject their sense of punitiveness remains unflappable,” Cox writes. “Students consistently draw distinctions between individuals accused of drug offenses and those they see to be deserving of prison time, and they express outrage when they learn about countries where life sentences stop at 10 and sometimes 20 years.”

Cox argues that violent offenders should be granted “a chance to live their lives, and perhaps even become college students, so that they and others can help us build knowledge about why and how violent crime begins and ends.”

At New Paltz, Cox teaches Crime and Society, Criminological Theory, Juvenile Delinquency, and Race Crime and Punishment.  This semester, she co-teaches an “Inside Out” course with Karanja Carroll, an associate professor of black studies, at a local juvenile facility with New Paltz students and students inside.  Cox’s research is about young people’s experiences of being governed in the juvenile justice system.

Cox also published (with Jane Spinak) an article advocating for independent oversight of New York’s juvenile justice system on the website on Jan. 26.

Department of Black Studies Hosts Spring Lecture Series

The Department of Black Studies will host a Spring Lecture Series, with talks presented by Assistant Professor Zelbert Moore. All lectures will be held on Mondays in Lecture Center room 104 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Moore will deliver the first lecture, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Where is the Dream?” on Jan. 26.

The complete schedule is as follows:

Feb. 16
Integration in America: Real or Imagined?

March 9
Dr. Henry Kissinger: Secretary of State or Secretary of Terror?

March 30
Brazil in the World

April 13
Soldiers and Doctors: Cuba Around the World

The lectures are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the Black Studies Department at 845-257-2760.

Presentation on Ethiopia Study Abroad Opportunity to be Held Jan. 29.


Students will learn about an opportunity to work with Ethiopia’s deaf population during a presentation on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 5 p.m. in Lecture Center room 108.

Communication Disorders lecturer Rebecca Swenson participated in the Visions Deaf Education and Empowerment in Ethiopia service learning trip last summer and will speak about her experiences. A representative from the Study Abroad office will be present to provide information and answer questions.

Students can earn three credits for the study abroad course in Ethiopia, held June 15-27. The course is offered by the SUNY New Paltz Center for International Programs, in partnership with Visions Global Empowerment.

The Evolution and Art Interface: New Paltz Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Darwin Day

Humans around the world create visual art, music and dance. None of these activities are particularly helpful at facilitating survival. How did these features come to so strongly embed into our species? Why are humans “artistic apes?”

The New Paltz’s Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) program will explore these questions during its 10th Annual Celebration of Darwin Day – a day dedicated to celebrating the advances in our understanding of life that have followed from Charles Darwin’s work.

The event will be held on Thursday, February 12 (what would have been Darwin’s 206th birthday) from 5-8 p.m. in Lecture Center room 108.

Gabrielle Starr

Keynote speaker Dr. Gabrielle Starr (New York University) explores the connection between evolution and the arts.

Dr. Gabrielle Starr (New York University), author of Feeling Beauty: The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience, will deliver the keynote address. Starr is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at NYU and her work focuses on a scientific/evolutionist account of the arts.

A panel composed of local scholars with interests in the evolution and art interface will follow the keynote address. Panelists include EvoS scholars Glenn Geher (Psychology), Andrew Higgins (English), Paul Kassel (Theatre Arts) and Andrea Varga (Theatre Arts).

The public is invited to attend the talk and free reception.

The event is sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs, Evolutionary Studies Program and School of Fine and Performing Arts.

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

LA&S Faculty Meeting to be Held January 27

A full meeting of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 27 from 3:30-4:45 p.m. in Lecture Center 102.

This meeting was postponed from the end of the Fall 2014 term and will include Dean Laura Barrett’s report to the LA&S faculty, a report from the LA&S Senate on business conducted last fall, and other agenda items directly concerning the LA&S faculty.

“Despite the very busy period of the new semester and the return of Annual Report season, I encourage all LA&S Faculty to attend this meeting, especially as we push forward to heighten the profile of–and to strengthen the university’s commitment of resources to–the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,” said Christopher Link, LA&S Senate presiding officer.

Link announced that agendas will be available soon. Those wishing to add an agenda item concerning the LA&S faculty as a whole should contact Link via email at

Sociology Professor Discusses Athlete Activism on Texas Public Radio

Do NBA stars wearing “I Can’t Breathe” warm-up T-shirts and the St. Louis Rams’ controversial “Hands up, don’t shoot,” pre-game pose signal the return of the athlete as activist?

Peter Kaufman

Peter Kaufman

Sociology Professor Peter Kaufman weighed in on pro athletes’ responses to the shooting deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner during a Dec. 10 interview with Texas Public Radio.

On the call-in talk radio show “The Source,” Kaufman noted the upsurge in athletes taking a stand on social issues, but said he was not sure if players’ expressed solidarity with Brown and Garner yet constitutes a “full blown movement.”

Referencing the historically negative backlash black athletes have received when attempting to comment on politically-charged issues, Kaufman agreed with fellow panelist Leonard Moore (University of Texas), that athletes are not perceived as humans entitled to express their thoughts publicly.

“We see them as a commodity bought and sold by the owners and the viewers, and we want them to shut up and play. We don’t want them to have opinions,” he said.

Kaufman cited the inequity of athletes who are expected to maintain an apolitical public persona while playing in sports that are “highly politicized.” Sports, Kaufman argued, are linked inextricably with the forces of globalization, capitalism, racism and sexism.

Kaufman criticized the U.S. educational system for not teaching social consciousness, and noted that it’s not just athletes who remain silent.

“We live in a country that’s largely apolitical, that doesn’t have an understanding of how to struggle for social change, maybe even an understanding of how to recognize social injustice. We’ve not taught in our schools about everyday heroes and everyday change-makers,” he said.

Kaufman has taught courses on Social Change and the Sociology of Sport at New Paltz.

His work on the subject of athletes and activism includes “Playing and Protesting: Sport as a Vehicle for Social Change,” published in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues (2010) and “Boos, Bans, and Backlash: The Consequences of Being an Activist Athlete,” published in Humanity and Society (2008).

Kaufman also shared his thoughts on the Brown shooting and racism in the U.S. in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency in Iran on Dec. 8.