False Convictions in Texas: Are We Doing Enough?

By Robert W. Hoelscher
Deputy Director, Innocence Project of Texas (ITPX)

Do you believe people in Texas get convicted of crimes they did not commit? If you do, what do you think we should be doing about it? And whatever we’re doing about it, are we doing enough?

Let’s start with the first question. The answer is simple: Yes, people in Texas get convicted of crimes they did not commit. Why yes? Because to believe that false convictions never happen is to believe that the criminal justice system is perfect. Seems a bit of a stretch to believe that anything could be perfect, no?

But for many years, believe in perfection we did. The distinguished federal judge Learned Hand called the prospect of false convictions an “unreal dream.” And although books, films and other media would tell tragic stories about false convictions, those stories were make believe. In the real world, we went right along with Judge Hand. We may have easily accepted the notion that human beings make mistakes. But not THOSE mistakes. Continue reading False Convictions in Texas: Are We Doing Enough?

Health Care Economies and the Danger of Words

Dr. Phil Barrish discusses the literature of health care in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Clare Callahan

The Humanities Institute Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar on
“Health, Well-Being, Healing”
has begun! At our first meeting on February 21st, Phil Barrish, Professor of English, presented his work-in-progress, “Environmental Illness and the Future of Health Care,” a literary analysis of Chang-Rae Lee’s first work of speculative fiction On Such a Full Sea. Lee’s On Such a Full Sea imagines three health care scenarios that respond to the long-term effects of human-wrought environmental damage on human health, and more specifically to the uneven distribution of this environmental depredation. The three scenarios present in the novel are based on our contemporary discourse on health care, from “a left-wingers dystopian projection of the health care landscape under a supposed free market system,” as Barrish describes it, to “a right-winger’s nightmare vision of . . . a single-payer government-run system.” Dr. Barrish’s essay, whichon-such-a-full-sea-ppbk examines the representation of the political economy of health care in On Such a Full Sea, builds off of his previously published work, including his essay “Health Policy in Dystopia,” published in Literature and Medicine in 2016 and “The Sticky Web of Medical Professionalism: Robert Herrick’s The Web of Life and the Political Economy of Health Care at the Turn of the Century,” published in American Literature in 2014.

Continue reading Health Care Economies and the Danger of Words

How We Talk About Women’s Bodies

An Interview with Deborah Esquenazi on Directing Southwest of Salem

Southwest of Salem is a 2016 documentary about the San Antonio Four—four Latina lesbian women convicted of gang raping two young girls, a crime of which they were innocent and which never even took place. The allegations of child rape against Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera, and Anna Vasquez surfaced in 1994 in the midst of the Satanic Panic in the U.S., a fear of widespread satanic ritual practice that was deeply rooted in homophobia and which perpetuated the myth that LGBTQ individuals are more likely to target children for sexual abuse. The women spent 13-16 years in prison. With the help of The Innocence Project of Texas and Esquenazi’s documentary, the Four were fully exonerated in November 2016.

Clare Callahan of the Humanities Institute and Andrew Murphy of the Austin Public Library sat down with Director Deborah Esquenazi to discuss Southwest of Salem. Ms. Esquenazi discusses how women’s bodies are talked about and how this language to women’s bodies, animated by misogyny and homophobia, led to the false convictions of four women for a crime that never happened. Ms. Esquenazi also reflects on the film’s representation of the nature of freedom and imprisonment. She briefly discusses her current project Certain Perversions, which takes a deeper look at Elizabeth Ramirez’s trial as an example of the way a woman’s body is adjudicated in our system.

Continue reading How We Talk About Women’s Bodies

Excerpts from O N E E V E R Y O N E: A Conversation with Ann Hamilton

The light increasing  the sun must be rising. It reveals the window as frosted over. Wood muntined, with four small panes, it resembles a house window more than a hospital window. What is it doing in this hall where he lies on a stretcher outside the fulltocapacity ward? He thinks this unfolding in time of the window growing lighter is beautiful, is beauty itself. Yet no one notices. Who can afford the patience? The doctors circulate on appointed rounds, stopping only for the sick and wounded. Is attention to something like this window the work of artists? He does not know the answer to that yet, but he thinks that only artists and sick people stop, out of inclination or necessity, to study beauty that takes so long. The hospital staff has materialized this moment for him, all its factors of time, place, and breath.

Excerpt from “Patience” by Matthew Goulish, Dramaturge. His full length essay will be delivered on January 26 at 7pm in the LBJ Auditorium at our upcoming event, co-sponsored with Landmarks, “O N E E V E R Y O N E: A Conversation with Ann Hamilton.” See our calendar on the left sidebar for more information.

Photo: Robert Westminster by Ann Hamilton from  O N E E V E R Y O N E

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