All posts by Liz


California Prison Reform: Overcrowded, Overcapacity, and Out of Control

The California prison system is out of control.  From a prison population pushing the limits at just over 200% of the state’s prisons designed capacity in 2006, California has embarked on a path to meet the mandate of the Supreme Court: get prisons to 137.5% of designed capacity… or else. There is no debate that tough-on-crime laws have led to unnecessary imprisonment and excessive sentencing.  However, reformation attempts following the Supreme Court’s mandate have revealed the politics of reducing a prison population are not quite as simple as letting almost 40,000 prisoners free. While initial strategies focused on expanding the prison system in order to humanely accommodate their swelling numbers, recent policy legislation has focused on normalization and rehabilitation as better ways to get imprisonment, and in the long run, overall crime levels, down. My paper examines the major policy actions taken since the 2006 prison population peak, the motivations and outcomes of these policies, and finally, suggests a way for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to get their prison population growth rate under control for the long run.

Paper: Semeraro_White Paper Final California Prison Reform

Inspired By: Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003

This report is compiled by the US department of Justice, Bureau of statistics because of a directive in the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003  which requires yearly documentation, analysis, and reporting of sexual assault in the prison system.  While some distinctions were made between populations at private and public institutions, the statistics did not attempt to compare instances of sexual assaults explicitly between these two groups.

Continue reading Inspired By: Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003

Immigration Makes Prison Complicated

Immigration adds another complicated layer to the privatized prison system.  The article states, “Current U.S. legislation is read by some members of Congress to require that at least 34,000 immigrants be held in detention beds at all times at a cost of $2 billion annually”.

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[Not so] Fun Facts about Women in Prison

A growing prison population, and a growing trend of privatizing institutions leads to a complicated experience for women in the prison system.

By themselves each of these facts are troubling:

  • “There are 148,200 women in state and federal prisons. In federal women’s correctional facilities, 70% of guards are male.”
  • “Guards threaten the prisoner’s children and visitation rights as a means of silencing the women.”
  • “From 1986 to 1996 the number of women sentenced to state prison for drug crimes increased ten-fold.”
  • “Women are often denied essential medical resources and treatments, especially during times of pregnancy and/or chronic and degenerative diseases.”
  • “An African American woman is eight times more likely than a European American woman is to be imprisoned; African American women make up nearly half of the nation’s female prison population”

Continue reading [Not so] Fun Facts about Women in Prison

Save Money….Live Better?


In the 1950’s, Sam Walton collected the capital to purchase several franchises for the Ben Franklin 5 and Dime chain. These stores flourished under the entrepreneur’s new management practices, which carried out a strategy of purchasing directly from manufacturers, selling at discounted prices, and increasing inventory volume (Fredericks 1995).  This strategy became the foundation for Sam Walton’s business that we know today as Wal-Mart. Walton opened his first Wal-Mart in Arkansas in 1962; 50 years later, over 90% of US consumers have shopped at a Wal-Mart at least once (Fredericks 1995). The small discount retailer has grown into a multibillion-dollar corporation bent on providing the lowest prices everyday to the millions of customers that shop at Wal-Mart. Walton’s low price strategy followed this simple logic:

Continue reading Save Money….Live Better?

Liz not Lizzy

My name is Elizabeth Anne Semeraro.

But I prefer Liz.  Up until high school, I was Lizzy (with a Y- not like Lizzie Macguire, although that’s what my elementary school bus driver used to call me).  My best friends growing up had no trouble making the switch to Liz, but their parents, on the other hand, still call me Lizzy.   Continue reading Liz not Lizzy

How Many Sides are Too Many Sides to a Story?

This is Terry Greenwood.  He is one of many in Pennsylvania affected by negligent fracking practices.  Terry makes a living by raising and selling cattle.  In recent years, his business has declined because his animals are getting sick.  The company working on Terry’s property did not regulate water management practices to help keep his animal’s drinking water safe.  Terry pays around $800 a year for water now.  He has lost acreage on his farm due to spillage, roads, and trash from the company.

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Continue reading How Many Sides are Too Many Sides to a Story?

A Lifetime’s Worth of Questions: Dinner with Maya Angelou

I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” when I was sixteen- a junior in high school- and read about Maya Angelou’s life up to the same age.  Our world’s were so dramatically different from one another but I was still able to empathize in many ways with 16 year old Maya Angelou.  The experience of reading this book left me a awe of her accomplishments and so full of respect of the richness and beauty of her words. Continue reading A Lifetime’s Worth of Questions: Dinner with Maya Angelou

Life in the Fast Lane: A Working Woman Don’t Need No Man

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be okay with paying a stranger to gaze deeply into my eyes.

Can you purchase intimacy?  What are patrons of a cuddle cafes or host clubs really expecting out of their visits?

It’s said that prostitution is ‘the world’s oldest profession’ but historically has been associate with exclusively physical pleasure, not emotional intimacy. Emotional connections might even be discouraged. How can non-physical desires be commodified and still believable?  The cuddle cafe worker admits she has no emotional attachment to her clients, yet she makes her living by convincing them otherwise. I am shocked by the ease that emotional intimacy can be ‘faked’. Intimacy doesn’t sound congruous with stranger.

Continue reading Life in the Fast Lane: A Working Woman Don’t Need No Man