Friday, October 16, 2009

One Parthenogenetically Reborn Business

American prisons make the inmates they are made for: the thesis of Prof. Sharon Dolovich and many works to whom she refers in her new SSRN piece (download here) to appear in Harvard Law and Policy Review symposium.

Mass incarceration has become a virgin birth industry. It keeps laying eggs and the eggs are us. From the view of an egg who both justice and society failed, and having collected a five year degree from the Texas Dept of Criminal Justice along with an M.A. in Government from Notre Dame, and J.D. from The American University, I could not agree more. Prof. Dolovich puts it all together.

Her title,

Incarceration American Style

Here is the RUNAWAY FREIGHT TRAIN which reproduces itself at great cost to the taxpayer:

"society never has to confront the fact that the perceived need to control an out-of-control population may stem from the conditions, both inside and outside the prison, to which the incarcerated have been subjected.

The absence of any meaningful re-integrative project is thus revealed as both cause and effect of the system’s reproductive success; without such a project, prisoners’ re-entry efforts will in many cases be doomed to fail, and one can expect no real social investment to reintegrate those regarded as (non)people unfit for society.

Here is an effective recipe for simultaneous social abandonment and continued carceral control, as those who have been incarcerated and subsequently deprived of any meaningful social or psychological support are sure to become ever more marginalized from the body politic, and the more marginalized they become, the more likely they are to wind up back in prison."

That troubles me. It could be you too, innocently convicted and trying to re-make your life. Do you know anybody like that?

There is hope here:

Emphasize "the humanity and individuality of the people we put behind bars. It is embodied in Taifa and Beane’s call for an evidencebased approach to tackling the risk factors for criminal conduct; in Judge Gertner’s endorsement of evidence-based sentencing practices and guided discretion; and even in Clear and Austin’s macro-level demand that policymakers reduce the prison population by eliminating mandatory sentencing.

The self-perpetuating character of the American carceral system will not be disrupted until society as a whole begins to see that it is fellow human beings we are incarcerating. Until this fact is recognized, the wise strategies for change proposed by these authors will not be widely or seriously considered. But once it is recognized, those same strategies will be irresistible.

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