cover image Parsimony and Other Radical Ideas About Justice

Parsimony and Other Radical Ideas About Justice

Edited by Jeremy Travis and Bruce Western. New Press, $29.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62097-755-2

Travis (But They All Come Back), executive vice president for criminal justice at the Arnold Foundation, and Western (Homeward), codirector of the Justice Lab at Columbia University, bring together lawyers, former judges, sociologists, and policy experts to offer an enlightening and impassioned critique of the criminal justice system. Drawing on legal scholar Norval Morris’s principle of parsimony (“the least restrictive or least punitive sanction necessary to achieve defined social purposes”), the contributors outline a “new vision of justice” to “empower communities, respect the liberty of individuals, and promote a vibrant and healthy society.” Specific aspects of the current system that come in for forceful critique include the length of prison sentences, the misapplication of the “violent offender” label, the use of solitary confinement, and the meager resources provided for formerly incarcerated individuals returning to their communities. Proposed changes include required training for judges about the “neuroscience of trauma” and “the social and cultural contexts of individuals they are sentencing” and the use of housing vouchers and vocational training to reduce recidivism. Throughout, the contributors acknowledge the substantial obstacles to reform while highlighting inspirational success stories. Innovative, well-researched, and persuasive, this is a full-throated call for change. (Feb.)