WHAT'S PRISON FOR?

PUNISHMENT AND REHABILITATION IN THE AGE OF MASS INCARCERATION

A strong single-volume response to a seemingly intractable national dilemma.

A compassionate argument about why any reckoning with mass incarceration should transform imprisonment itself.

Keller, a founder of the nonprofit Marshall Project and former executive editor of the New York Times, acknowledges he came late to this thorny topic: “My crash course in criminal justice taught me that this country imprisons people more copiously than almost any other place on earth.” While others have outlined the inequities fueling mass incarceration, imprisonment itself remains an invisible cultural archipelago. “Our prisons are not the most transparent institutions,” writes the author, “and out of sight too often means out of mind. But the American way of incarceration is a shameful waste of lives and money.” The author clearly reveals the contemporary prison experience, from intake following conviction to the surreal “afterlife” of parole. At each stage, he shows absurd injustice, brutality, and despair, countered by enlightened approaches in places like Norway and domestic desires for change, including “a political force few saw coming: a reform movement on the right.” Keller initially reviews how American society became increasingly punitive in the early 1970s, as “punishment supplanted rehabilitation in the national discourse.” Yet other factors, including acknowledgement of unjust policing and declining post-1990 violent crime rates, laid the groundwork for a “cultural and generational shift away from the punitive.” We can see this shift in the restorative justice movement as well as “prosecutors questioning what crimes should be prosecuted and judges seeking non-court remedies.” The author also explores less-discussed facets, including the systemic pressures faced by corrections officers, the insidious effect of for-profit incarceration, and the particular marginalization of women prisoners. He portrays education and mentorship as especially crucial. “Almost every conversation I had with prison veterans,” writes Keller, “turned sooner or later to a plea for respect, for dignity.” Though some of the author’s observations have been documented before, the narrative is well researched and lucid.

A strong single-volume response to a seemingly intractable national dilemma.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-7359137-4-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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