The Hagey Lecture Perspective: 1997

The Hagey lectures are the University of Waterloo’s premier invitational public lecture series. Since 1970, outstanding individuals, who have distinguished themselves internationally in some area of scholarly or creative endeavour have given talks intended to challenge, stimulate and enrich not only the faculty, staff and students of the University of Waterloo, but all members of this community.

These annual lectures are co-sponsored by the Faculty Association and the university, and with the success of this year’s lecture by Dr. Paul Collier, we’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate some of our past lectures.

1997 brought Canadian writer and producer David Cayley to the Theatre of the Humanities. In a way it came full circle, as he was a student of inaugural Hagey lecturer George Wald. Cayley served as the principal writer for the CBC radio series Ideas, and his interviews with figures such as Ivan Illich and Northrop Frye, published in his Conversations series.

His talk, “The Expanding Prison: Is there an alternative?” was based on his then forthcoming book “The Expanding Prison” from House of Anansi Press. In it, he noted an ever-increasing global prison population, but observed that crime and imprisonment aren’t connected in the way we often imagine. “At the moment, while registered crime decreases in many places, imprisonment increases. Conversely, between the 1950s and  1970s the Netherlands cut the number of prisoners in half, while registered crime increased by 300%” Cayley set out to challenge what we consider the traditional notions of prison and punishment, and explore examples of successful alternatives displayed both in Canada and around the world.

Speaking to an audience of 450 people, he decried the current state of prisons, calling them “…the universities of crime,” isolating prisoners from society rather than helping them to rejoin it. He discussed alternatives to prison, such as victim mediation programs that give offenders an opportunity to make amends for their wrongdoing, and sentencing circles that encourage offenders to take ownership of their actions. His colloquium, delivered on the following day, expanded on these topics as he discussed the matter with Waterloo students.

Since his lecture, David Cayley has continued to produce and write for the CBC, and his 2009 book Ideas on the Nature of Science included edited transcripts of interviews with University of Waterloo professor Lee Smolin and 2011 Hagey lecturer Ian Hacking.

Quotations from Dave Augustyn, “Is there a better way?” University of Waterloo Magazine, Spring 1998

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