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Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms (2020)

por Maya Schenwar, Victoria Law

Outros autores: Michelle Alexander (Prefácio)

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1223223,198 (4.38)Nenhum(a)
"Electronic monitoring. Locked-down drug treatment centers. House arrest. Mandated psychiatric treatment. Data-driven surveillance. Extended probation. These are some of the key alternatives held up as cost-effective substitutes for jails and prisons. But many of these so-called reforms actually widen the net, weaving in new strands of punishment and control, and bringing new populations, who would not otherwise have been subject to imprisonment, under physical control by the state. As mainstream public opinion has begun to turn against mass incarceration, political figures on both sides of the spectrum are pushing for reform. But-though they're promoted as steps to confront high rates of imprisonment-many of these measures are transforming our homes and communities into prisons instead. In Prison by Any Other Name, activist journalists Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law reveal the way the kinder, gentler narrative of reform can obscure agendas of social control and challenge us to question the ways we replicate the status quo when pursuing change. A foreword by Michelle Alexander situates the book in the context of criminal justice reform conversations. Finally, the book offers a bolder vision for truly alternative justice practices"--… (mais)
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Eye Opening Yet Flawed. From a standard sociological talking point side, this book is eye opening yet also perfectly in-line (almost within perfect lock-step, in fact) with current sociological understanding - or at least my own understanding of current sociological understanding. (And this, from a guy that *long ago* presented at a sociological conference as a college freshman - just to establish that I do in fact have a *modicum* of academic understanding here. ;) ) In the forward, Michelle Alexander shows that despite the years, her own blinders and biases are still perfectly in place - but also sets the overall tone for the book. In short, this does for government controls outside the actual mass incarceration system what Alexander's The New Jim Crow did for the mass incarceration system and what Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop did for the actual history of police militarization and brutality in the US. Indeed, ultimately this is a book that belongs in the same libraries and conversations as those two magnum opuses as a definitive text on the issue that every single person in America needs to read. Yes, it is *that* powerful, even for someone who has read both of the aforementioned books, who has been an activist for quite some time, and know knows more about these issues than many, perhaps most, people currently talking about them in media (either professional or social).

Its critical flaws are similar to Alexanders' own: it has a near laser focus on race as the root cause. Where this book gains the extra star above Alexander's book is that key word "near". Schenwar and Law do a commendable job of listing other leading causes of these issues - chiefly, being poor no matter the color of your skin - even while most often listing race as the most common cause. At that point, I'm more willing to call six of one/ half a dozen of the other, it is so well balanced here.

But arguably the biggest flaw of the book is that even while constantly preaching about the perils of government control systems, it still manages to advocate for *more*... government control systems, simply targeting other people. Even as it preaches community and alternatives to police, prison, and the various systems described in the book, it still ultimately demands ever more government programs rather than the true community Schenwar and Law claim to want. Rather than praising Anarchy and demanding a complete overthrow of the very government systems that cause the very problems they so accurately describe, they ultimately choose to love Big Brother even while asking him to be a little bit nicer.

And just as this ending is the ultimate tragedy of Orwell's 1984, so too it is the ultimate tragedy of this otherwise stupendous polemic. Recommended. ( )
  BookAnonJeff | Jul 11, 2021 |
A hugely important book to read for folks looking and thinking about alternatives to incarceration and the ways that most of the "reforms" that are being currently offered are in fact functionally the same as prison and may, in some cases, be worse in terms of stretching out a person's punishment for far longer than if they had been sent to prison for the original crime they were accused of.

It's infuriating at every step (I started out reading this book right before I went to bed and ended up having to swap up my book line up because I would get so angry I couldn't sleep,) and I could see people reading this and being frustrated that more time isn't spent on alternatives that are actually useful (though they do discuss alternatives a little bit, it's not the entire focus of this book and really only shows up in the last chapter,) though I felt like it was fine and does the work it's meant to.

In a larger line up of books about ending the PIC, I would put it a little later (it's a great follow up to We Do This 'Til We Free Us,) but nonetheless it's a hugely critical read that energized me to continue to try to fight these forms of punishment and confinement that do nothing to stop harm and in fact only increase its prevalence. ( )
  aijmiller | May 12, 2021 |
Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reform by Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law is a well researched and presented account of how many, if not all, popular reforms ultimately cause more harm than good.

Through analyzing the laws and reforms, their practical applications, and both statistical and anecdotal research, the authors demonstrate that the popular reforms proposed and thus far implemented serve to broaden, not shrink, those under carceral control. In other words, what Foucault had referred to as the carceral archipelago has indeed come to pass and is only being strengthened by these well-intentioned reforms. This is not limited to any part of the political spectrum. While right wing plans make few apologies for targeting, whether explicitly or implicitly, people of color and poor people, left wing and bipartisan plans are equally counterproductive.

The examples throughout the book put real faces to the inane policies that have been enacted. The damage done to not only those deemed criminals but to their families and future generations is made clear to any reader. Even if you aren't comfortable with the idea of abolition you need to read and understand that these "humane" forms of control are not beneficial to either the "criminal" or society.

What is needed as expressed by Schenwar and Law is a more just and equitable society. Making changes to the system that don't change the overall structure just makes the system larger and more pervasive. Making the government more about social welfare and less about punishment and control is, at the core, prison reform. Increasing the cooperation and communication between various movements is essential to making progress. But individuals are also key, opening communication between individuals would begin to make where we live more like communities, not just similar people living in proximity.

Just ignore anarchists who pretend to be sociologically informed but seem to think that simply abolishing everything immediately is a solution. Even most anarchists who truly want to work toward that know that total immediate anarchy is unworkable and irrational and that steps in that direction are the way to both shape society without creating chaos. I am not an anarchist and am comfortable with the idea of a functioning government that is more concerned with the social welfare of all rather than the economic and financial gluttony of the very few. And that is currently what we have.

I highly recommend this to anyone even remotely curious about prison reform and/or what abolition might look like. This does not answer every pragmatic question but does lay a very solid foundation for why such change is needed.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  pomo58 | Jul 1, 2020 |
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Law, Victoriaautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
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"Electronic monitoring. Locked-down drug treatment centers. House arrest. Mandated psychiatric treatment. Data-driven surveillance. Extended probation. These are some of the key alternatives held up as cost-effective substitutes for jails and prisons. But many of these so-called reforms actually widen the net, weaving in new strands of punishment and control, and bringing new populations, who would not otherwise have been subject to imprisonment, under physical control by the state. As mainstream public opinion has begun to turn against mass incarceration, political figures on both sides of the spectrum are pushing for reform. But-though they're promoted as steps to confront high rates of imprisonment-many of these measures are transforming our homes and communities into prisons instead. In Prison by Any Other Name, activist journalists Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law reveal the way the kinder, gentler narrative of reform can obscure agendas of social control and challenge us to question the ways we replicate the status quo when pursuing change. A foreword by Michelle Alexander situates the book in the context of criminal justice reform conversations. Finally, the book offers a bolder vision for truly alternative justice practices"--

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