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Date and Location

April 10, 2024
4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET


Digitally Mapping Social Networks: RICO, Electronic Monitoring, and Surveillance of Gangs and Protest Movements Photo

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The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a federal law developed in 1970, was created to target largescale, highly structured criminal enterprises like the mob. It became a critical tool to level such organizations, using predicate offenses to establish participation in broad conspiracies and bring significantly enhanced penalties to dismantle criminal networks. In more recent years, use of the tactics which targeted organized crime decades ago have been turned against much more diffuse social networks, even as police and prosecutors have continued to announce targeting high-level, organized violence. Modern gang takedowns, in state and federal courts, have commonly swept in people involved in low-level criminal conduct or criminalized people for what they wear, who they know, and where they go, particularly in communities of color and public housing developments. At the same time, the same tactics are increasingly being used to target protest movements and to punish dissent, for example the indictment of more than 60 people in the #StopCopCity movement to protest the construction of a police training complex outside of Atlanta, GA. Join Professor Babe Howell of CUNY School of Law and organizer Micah Herskind to talk about the criminalization of social networks—from young people of color in urban centers to anti-carceral organizers.


Babe Howell is a Professor of Law at CUNY School of Law. Professor Howell’s research focuses on the intersection of the criminal justice system and race.  She is particularly interested in the policing and prosecution of gangs and crews and the impact such policing and prosecutions have on the criminal system and on communities of color.  Babe is an active member of the Grassroots Association for Neighborhood Groups and Solutions Coalition, a coalition of community members, organizations, and advocates that work to rein in over-policing of young people of color based on group affiliation.  Before joining academia, Babe was a practicing trial lawyer in the area of criminal defense in New York City for eight years. During this time she worked at both The Legal Aid Society Criminal Defense Division in Manhattan and at The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.  She teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Criminal Trial Advocacy, and Professional Responsibility.

Micah Herskind is an organizer, writer, and law student. He is active in abolitionist movements against police and jail expansion, and has written for publications including New York Magazine, Scalawag, MSNBC, Prism, Teen Vogue, and Race & Class. Prior to beginning law school, he was a policy advocate at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, GA. With Kamau Franklin and Mariah Parker, Micah is a co-editor of the forthcoming No Cop City, No Cop World: Writings from the Stop Cop City Movement (Haymarket Books, 2025).

Moderated by Katy Naples-Mitchell, Program Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

The Surveillance, Criminalization, and Punishment  speaker series is organized by Katy Naples-Mitchell, Program Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, and  Sandra Susan Smith, Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice; Faculty Director, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management; Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy; Professor of Sociology; and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute.

Speakers and Presenters

​Babe Howell, Professor of Law at CUNY School of Law | Micah Herskind, abolitionist organizer and author | Katy Naples-Mitchell (moderator), Program Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management


Additional Organizers

​Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, HKS