Policing and Prisons

Heather Ann Thompson writes about, and consults regularly on, the history as well as present day implications of prisons, punishment and policing in the United States.

Below are a selection of Thompson’s talks and events related to the subject of prisons, policing and other policy matters.

For media interviews and lectures related to Blood in the Water, click here.


Heather Ann Thompson. Center for American Progress. Toward a More Perfect Union: Bringing Criminal Justice Reform to our Communities. Briefing on Incarceration from National Academies Report. May 28, 2015.

Heather Ann Thompson. Congressional Staff Briefing, House Judiciary Committee. May 26, 2015. Broadcast on CSPAN.

Heather Ann Thompson. Interviewed on The Heat. CCTV: Baltimore Uprising and Crisis in America’s Inner Cities. May 2, 2015.  Part Two and Part Three.

Heather Ann Thompson, Social Changes of the 1970s. CSPAN. January 2, 2015. (segments: 44:20-55:48, 1:13:40-1:14:38, 1:22:15-1:23:43, 1:30:20-1:31:50, 1:48:11-1:50:15, 1:50:50-1:51:54)

Heather Ann Thompson, Understanding the Ferguson Protests. CSPAN. January 3, 2015. (segments: 31:25-43:45, 1:22:00-1:24:00, 1:27:23-1:29:21, 2:04:23-2:05:23)

Heather Ann Thompson, Tension Between NYPD And De Blasio Mirrors Clashes From 1960s.HuffPost Live. December 29, 2014. (for entire interview click here)


Heather Ann Thompson. Incarceration and Prisons. Smart Talk. January 2, 2018

Heather Ann Thompson. Prison Food as Punishment. BBC World News. February 27, 2016.

Heather Ann Thompson, “History of Mass Incarceration.” Wake up with Tayla Andre Show. October 7, 2015.

Heather Ann Thompson, The Crisis of Mass Incarceration in North Carolina. Frank Stassio’s The State of Things. WUNC. September 29, 2015

Heather Ann Thompson and Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Historians and the Carceral State. June, 2015

Heather Ann Thompson, Charleston and White Responsibility. Open Source Radio. June 25, 2015

Heather Ann Thompson, Mass Incarceration: Why Does it Matter? Drive By Jack. Radio. May 4, 2015.

Heather Ann Thompson, Can the US have “open prisons” like Finland? PRI World. April 15, 2015. (marker 5:12)

Heather Ann Thompson, “Americans in Jail.” Rear Vision. Australian Broadcasting Company. Sunday February 15, 2015.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Lessons from Attica and Mass Incarceration.”  Law and Disorder Radio. January 28, 2015

Heather Ann Thompson, “Ferguson and the Death of Michael Brown.” Rear Vision.Australian Broadcasting Company. September 14, 2014

Heather Ann Thompson, “Ending Conjugal Visits in Mississippi: The Costs” NPR’s Tell Me More with host Michel Martin. January 27, 2014.

Heather Ann Thompson, “How Mass Incarceration Distorts our Democracy,” on The Agenda, Sirius Radio. October 11, 2013.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Detroit, Baltimore, and Oakland: The Fate of America’s Cities,” On the Marc Steiner Show. Baltimore, MD. (begin marker 30:00)

Heather Ann Thompson, “From Attica to Current Justice Policy.” Interviewed by Matt Rothschild on The Progressive Radio Network. Sirius Radio.

Heather Ann Thompson, The History and Legacy of Mass Incarceration. Interviewed on public radio WHYY, Radio Times, by Marty Moss-Coane.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Attica and Why Mass Incarceration Matters in America,” Interview on public radio WYSU, Youngstown, OH. Program: Lincoln Avenue.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Labor History, Incarceration, and Detroit.” The Craig Fahlel Show. Public Radio. WDET. Detroit, MI.

Heather Ann Thompson, “What Happened to Detroit: The Costs of Carceral Crisis,” Interview by Peter Werbe. WRIF. Program: Night Call. (go to marker: 1:40:00)

Heather Ann Thompson, “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline, and Transformation in Postwar American History“. Interviewed by Khalil Gibran Muhammad for the Journal of American History

Heather Ann Thompson, Interviewed on program: Prison Labor: Made in America. Free Speech Radio News.


Heather Ann Thompson, Interview. Why are Relations Between Black America and the Police so Poor?” BBC History Magazine. February, 2015


How Trump Ended Bipartisanship over Criminal Justice Reform. Newsweek. January 2, 2018.

On the Hard Path to Prison Reform: An Interview with Heather Ann Thompson. The Progressive.

Heather Ann Thompson, Why Mass Incarceration Matters to our Cities, Economy, and Democracy. The Ash Center. Harvard University. March 9, 2016

Interview with Heather Ann Thompson re writing history of mass incarceration and doing public work on this issue. NursingClio.org

Part One: November 3, 2015

Part Two: November 5, 2015

Heather Ann Thompson, The Arc of History and SCOTUS. Life of the Law. June 26, 2015.

German Lopes, “Riots are Destructive, Dangerous, and Scary–but Can Lead to Serious Social Reforms.” Interview with historians Heather Ann Thompson and Thomas Sugrue. April 30, 2015.

German Lopez, “New York City Police Officers are Protesting by Refusing to Work. It’s not the First Time.” Interview with Heather Ann Thompson. VOX. December 31, 2014.

Dara Lind, “The Ugly History of Racist Policing in America: Interview with Heather Ann Thompson” VOX. August 19, 2014.

Fred Rowland interviews Heather Ann Thompson on “Detroit Then and Now,” Hear Thompson’s thoughts on Detroit’s challenges today and where they came from.

Doing History in Public, Cambridge University:

History and United States prison policy: an interview with Dr Heather Ann Thompson (Part I)

History and United States prison policy: An interview with Dr Heather Ann Thompson (Part II)

Gertz, Emily. Why these prisoners are getting law degrees behind bars. TED. December 1, 2017.


Heather Ann Thompson. On Policing Crisis. Princeton University. December 9, 2016

Heather Ann Thompson. Mass Incarceration in Detroit. October, 2016

Heather Ann Thompson, Why Mass Incarceration Matters. 36th Annual Marion Wright Thompson Lecture.  The Price Institute. Rutgers University, Newark. February 20, 2016

Heather Ann Thompson, Lessons from History in the Fight against Incarceration Today.National Network for Safe Communities. June 22, 2015. New York, New York.

Heather Ann Thompson, Why Mass Incarceration Matters. Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Fighting a War on Poverty and Waging a War on Crime: Rethinking the Welfare State/Carceral State Divide.”  (36:50-48:55). The War on Poverty at 50. Symposium. University of Pennsylvania. September 20, 2014.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Why Mass Incarceration Matters to our Democracy.” (5:08-14:44). Interfaith Organizing Initiative, Summit on the Intersection of Criminalization and Race. May 8-9, 2014

Heather Ann Thompson, “Criminalizing Race, Racializing Criminals: Tayvon Martin, Tro Davis, and the Crisis of Mass Incarceration.” Dissent in America, Teach-In. Temple University, Philadelphia

Heather Ann Thompson, “Mass Incarceration and the Unmaking of Postwar America.” Auburn University. Auburn, Alabama

Heather Ann Thompson, “Distorting Democracy: Rethinking Politics and Power in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” February 21, 2013. The Havens Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Million Dollar Blocks in Detroit and the Auto Industry”. The Murphy Institute. New York, New York.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Education in Prison, the Incarceration ‘Employment Penalty,’ and a March on Washington.” The Murphy Institute. New York, New York.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Why the Carceral Crisis? Corporations, Immigrant Detention, Stop and Frisk, Prison Labor.” The Murphy Institute. New York, New York.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Prison Labor: Problem Not Work, the Problem is Exploitation.” The Murphy Institute. New York, New York.

Heather Ann Thompson, “Why the Labor Movement Should Care about the Crisis of Mass Incarceration.” The Murphy Institute. New York, New York.

Heather Ann Thompson. Interviewed by History News Network. The War on Poverty and the War on Crime. The Organization of American Historians.

Heather Ann Thompson. Those Still Haunted by Attica. Interviewed by reporter Gary Craig. Democrat and Chronicle.

Heather Ann Thompson. Lessons from Attica. Interviewed by reporter Gary Craig. Democrat and Chronicle.

Thompson quoted (selected):

Newsweek: June 22, 2016

Brutal Murder Busts Up Aryan Brotherhood of Mississippi

CNN: June 24, 2016:

The Next LGBT Cause: Gun Control

The Metro Times: April 26, 2015

Thousands of Michigan kids suffer because of mass incarceration

Vice: March 24, 2016

How Cops Terrorize People Without Even Arresting Them

BBC: December 18, 2015

Is it Fair to Punish Prisoners with Food

MotherBoard: September 23, 2015

When Prison Food is Punishment

NYT: September 28, 2015

New York City Bar Association Urges Reduction of Mass Incarceration in Report

 The Marshall Project: February 11, 2015

Happiness is a family sleepover.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: January 6, 2015

Ferguson Did Not Happen in a Vacuum

American Prospect: May 28, 2014

Modern-Day Slavery in America’s Prison Workforce

The Morning Call: April 29, 2014

Prisoner Suing for Conjugal Visits with his Wives

 The Philadelphia Inquirer: April 27, 2014

The Struggle with Life in Philly after Serving Time in Prison

Time Magazine: January 13, 2014

Mississippi Ending Conjugal Visits for Prisoners

USA Today: February 9, 2013

Film Raises Questions about 1971 Attica Prison Riot

Detroit Metro Times: October 24, 2012

U.S. prison system dwarfs other nations’, but what does it really cost us?

Other lectures given:

September 28-29, 2012:

Association for African American History and Life, Pittsburgh, PA

October 10, 2102:

Political Theory Workshop, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

October 10, 2012:

Columbia University, New York, NY

October 17, 2012:

University of Michigan, Dearborn, MI

October 18, 2012:

Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

October 24, 2012:

University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA

October 26-28, 2012:

Urban History Association, New York City, NY

November 1-4, 2012:

Southern Historical Association, Mobile, AL

November 8-9, 2012:

Yale University, New Haven, CT

November 15-17, 2012:

American Studies Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico

November 29, 2012:

Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

December 6-7, 2012:

National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC

January 3-6, 2013:

American Historical Association, New Orleans, LA

February 8, 2013:

Taubman College, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

February 9, 2013:

Human Rights Through Education (HRTE), Ann Arbor, MI.

February 13-14, 2013:

Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA

February 18-24, 2013:

Havens Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WS

February 28, 2013:

James E. Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia, PA

March 7-9, 2013:

Southern Labor Studies, New Orleans, LA

March 25, 2013:

Duke University, Durham, NC

The CLASS Center (Class, Labor, and Social Sustainability, Durham, NC

April 4-5, 2013:

National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC

April 19, 2013:

Murphy Center, CUNY, New York, NY

April 12-14, 2013:

Organization of American Historians, San Francisco, CA

April 30, 2013:

St. Paul Public Library, Saint Paul, MN

May 10, 2013:

The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

May 20-July 5, 2013

Rome, Italy

July 21-24, 2013

Los Angeles, CA

September 9-11, 2013:

Los Angeles, CA

September 22-23, 2013:

Auburn University , Auburn, AL.

October 17-19, 2013:

Gettysburg, PA

November 12, 2013:

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

November 14, 2013:

University of East Anglia, Norwich, England.

November 19, 2013:

Oxford University, Oxford, England.

November 22-23, 2013:

Washington, DC

January 7, 2014:

Eastern State Penitentiary

January 23, 2014:

Mullenburg College

February 92014:

Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia

February 14, 2014:

University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Milwaukee, WS

February 24, 2014:

Connecticut College

March 1, 2014:

UCLA School of Law

March 13-14, 2014:

University of Maryland, College Park

March 19, 2014:

Yale University

March 20, 2014:

College of Saint Rose

March 292014

University of Pennsylvania

April 2, 2014:

Rutgers University

April 8, 2014:

Yale University

April 24, 2014:

Towson University

May 8-9, 2014: 

Chicago, Illinois

May 29-20, 2014

University of Michigan, Summit on Detroit

June 20, 2014

University of Pennsylvania, Summer Institute on Inequality

July 26-29, 2014: 

Albuquerque, New Mexico

September 4, 2014:

John Jay College, NYC

September 12, 2014:

Capitol Hill, DC.

September 16, 2014:

Lycoming College

September 19, 2014:

University of Pennsylvania, War on Poverty Symposium

September 26, 2014:

Memphis, Tennessee

October 12, 2014:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

October 15, 2014:

San Francisco, California

October 23-24, 2014:

Washington University, St. Louis

November 6, 2014:

Toronto, Canada

November 7, 2014:

Harvard University

November 8, 2014:

Cornell University

November 12, 2014:

Atlanta, GA

November 18, 2014:

LaSalle University

November 19-20, 2014:

San Francisco, CA

January 2-5, 2014:

New York City

January 8, 2014:

Vancouver, Canada

January 23, 2015:

Jacksonville, Florida

February 9, 2015:

University of Michigan

February 27-March 4, 2015:

Manoa, Hawaii

March 6, 2015:

Harvard University

March 10, 2015:

Brown University

March 20, 2015:

University of Toronto

April 8-9, 2015

Ft. Worth, Texas

April 10, 2015:

Plano, Texas

April 16-19, 2015:

St. Louis, Missouri

May 10-14, 2015:

Zurich, Switzerland

May 14-17, 2015:

Cambridge University, Cambridge UK

May 26, 2015:

Congressional Briefing, House Judiciary Committee

May 27, 2015:

Center for American Progress

June 8, 2015:

Tuebingen, Germany

June 11-14, 2015:

Charleston, South Carolina

June 22-23, 2015:

National Network for Safe Communities, NYC

July 21, 2015:

Furman University, Greenville, NC

August 26, 2015:

Charlottesville, Virginia

September 24-26, 2015:

ASALH, Atlanta, Georgia

October 1, 2015:

Chapel Hill, NC.

October 9, 2015

Washington, DC. Congressional Briefing

October 22, 2015:

North American Labor History Conference, Detroit

October 27-28, 2015:

Stony Brook University, NY

November 2, 2015:

Toronto, CA

November 11-15, 2015:

Little Rock, Arkansas

January 14, 2016:

Osher Center. Ann Arbor, MI

February 10, 2016:

Arlington, Texas

February 11, 2016:

Dallas, Texas

February 20, 2016:

Newark, New Jersey

February 26-27, 2016:

Zurich, Switzerland

March 2, 2016:

Paris, France

March 9, 2016:

Harvard University

March 22, 2016:

Florida Atlantic University. Boca Raton, Florida

April 7, 2016:

Providence, Rhode Island

April 14, 2016:

Central Washington University. Ellensburg, Washington

April 21, 2015:

New York University. NYC.

April 25, 2015:

Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore MD

June 3, 2015:

Villanova University, Philadelphia, PA

June 23, 2016:

San Diego, California

September 9-10, 2016:

New York City

September 13, 2016:

Politics and Prose, Washington, DC.

September 23, 2016:

UCLA. Los Angeles

October 6, 2016:

Tamiment Library, NYC

October 13, 2016:

Chicago, Illinois

November 3, 2016:

St. Petersburg, Florida

November 17, 2016:

Denver, Colorado