UNCG Campus Weekly

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Fewer psychiatric hospitals, more prisons in America. Dr. Anne Parsons examines the link.

Photo of Dr. Anne ParsonsUNCG Assistant Professor of History Anne Parsons has received a 2015 Soros Justice Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations.

The fellowship will allow her to write a book about how the deinstitutionalization of mental hospitals has coincided with the rise of mass incarceration, replacing one form of confinement and stigmatization with another.

“This fellowship will give me the opportunity to look closely at changes — though not improvements — in how our society treats people who have psychiatric disorders,” Parsons says. “President Obama and other leaders are increasingly questioning how and why so many people are ending up in our jails and prisons — including many people with mental illnesses — and this book will examine the roots of that crisis.”

Dr. Parsons was one of 16 recipients who each received between $58,700 and $110,250 to fund full-time work. Parsons is a public historian who focuses on contemporary U.S. history. She came to UNCG in 2013 after finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“This program has been a vital pipeline for new voices and new ideas in the criminal justice arena, supporting work that has helped broaden the debate and improve the prospects, across the political spectrum, for criminal justice practices that genuinely advance public safety and fairness,” says Ken Zimmerman, director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations. “We believe the new set of fellows will contribute further transformative thinking and doing.”

Parsons is also currently working on a national traveling exhibition, Global Dialogues on Incarceration, which the UNCG History Department’s Museum Studies Program will bring to Greensboro in Fall 2016.

By Mark Tosczak
Photo by Ethan Hill/Redux for the Open Society Foundations