Amanda Hughett, 2017-19, is currently a Law and Social Sciences Doctoral Fellow at the American Bar Foundation and a Ph.D. Candidate in History at Duke University. Her dissertation documents how civil liberties lawyers’ efforts to secure procedural protections for inmates during the 1970s unintentionally undermined imprisoned activists’ ability to organize and to secure more substantive victories. It begins by tracing the emergence of a surprisingly successful interracial movement to unionize incarcerated workers in North Carolina and across the nation.
The project then reveals how prison administrators who at first opposed procedural protections for inmates used them, once created, to defeat prisoners’ more sweeping demands by portraying their institutions as modern bureaucracies that complied with the rule of law. In so doing, her work illuminates the limitations of individual rights claims in the postwar era while helping to explain why American prisons continue to punish more harshly than their counterparts in any Western country. At the Baldy Center, Amanda will revise her dissertation into a book manuscript tentatively titled Silencing the Cell Block: The Making of Modern Prison Policy in North Carolina and the Nation.