Jeremy Levenson

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Los Angeles, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9913

Approve Date

October 24, 2019

Project Title

Levenson, Jeremy (California, Los Angeles, U. of) "Carceral Care: Jail Reform in LA County"

JEREMY LEVENSON, then a graduate student at University of California, Los Angeles, California, was awarded funding in October 2019 to aid research on “Carceral Care: Jail Reform in LA County,” supervised by Dr. Philippe Bourgois. With approximately one quarter of its 18,000 daily inmates diagnosed with mental illness, Los Angeles County’s jail system is the largest de-facto provider of institutional psychiatric care in the United States. In response to public outcry about this stark reality, the LA County Board of Supervisors announced in early 2019 its intention to adopt a paradigm-changing, treatment-first approach to those who ‘need our help and not our punishment.’ But how will those people who ‘need our help’ be distinguished from those who need punishment? And what ‘help’ will the state provide? The proposed study explores this intersection of legal, psychiatric and penal power from two sites: LA’s mental health courtroom and its mental health jail, the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Through an ethnographic investigation into how the courts and the jails identify, sort, treat and manage mental illness, this study seeks to elucidate how therapeutic principles may, or may not, be transforming carceral governance in LA County. The tensions introduced by these reforms, between the incitement to care and the logic of punishment, offer insight into how ideologies of benevolence become entangled with practices of institutional and structural violence.