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Justice Edwin Cameron

Prisons and the F-word: Has the time come for a fundamental rethink?

This event took place on Tuesday, November 3

Presented in partnership with the Peter A. Allard School of Law and alumni UBC

Learn more about the special UBC Connects event for UBC students.

This series is made possible with the generous support of the R & J Stern Family Foundation

Media Partner: The Georgia Straight


About the Speaker:

Justice Edwin Cameron is a former judge of South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court. During apartheid, he was a human rights lawyer and in 2000 he was awarded the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. Cameron has fought for LGBTI equality and was a fierce critic of former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s AIDS denialist policies.

Cameron has written two memoirs: Witness to AIDS and Justice: A Personal Account. Since retiring from the bench in 2019, he was elected chancellor of Stellenbosch University and appointed judicial inspector of correctional services. He holds honorary degrees from six universities.

About the Talk:

French philosopher Michel Foucault, who died in 1984, was scathingly sceptical of the claim that prisons introduced a humane alternative to bodily punishment. He called prisons “the ultimate embodiment of [the] age of discipline”, reproducing criminality and constituting “a fearsome exception to the right and to the law”. Foucault was sceptical of prison reform and “humanisation”; for him, there could be no reform without “the search for a new society.” 

Has Foucault’s philosophy found its time with the current calls to abolish prisons? This talk will explore the notion of prison reform from Cameron’s perspective as South Africa’s inspecting judge of prisons. 

Following the talk, Justice Cameron will be joined by faculty from the Peter A. Allard School of Law, Janine Benedet (Dean pro tem), Debra Parkes and Efrat Arbel for a panel discussion and question period.

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