Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better

Maya Schenwar. Berrett-Koehler, $18.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-62656-269-1
The American prison system, with by far the largest number of incarcerated men and women in the world (fully 25% of the world's prison population), also impacts millions of Americans with loved ones behind bars. Schenwar, editor-in-chief of social justice–oriented news site Truthout, is one of these, having a sister whose drug dependency finally led to her incarceration in a central Illinois prison. Schenwar's thoughtful analysis of a deeply flawed system centers on this personal experience, augmented by dozens of interviews with inmates and their family members across the country. Arguing that mass incarceration only serves to mask deep-seated issues like homelessness, unemployment, inequality, and insufficient social services, Schenwar first describes how families are fractured by incarceration, with communities of color and little affluence disproportionately affected. In the book's second part, she visits various community-based social justice projects, such as a Chicago high school's "peace room," aimed at interrupting the "school-to-prison pipeline." Especially timely in the wake of California's passage of Proposition 47, which rolls back the draconian "three strikes" policy, this thoughtful discussion offers alternatives to incarceration rooted precisely in the familial and social ties otherwise undermined when loved ones disappear behind bars. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
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