In her first book, the founder of Brooklyn-based Common Justice convincingly attacks the conventional wisdom about violent crimes, appropriate punishment, and how to repair the criminal (in)justice system.
Sered’s organization brings together crime victims and perpetrators to experience a process known as restorative justice. Common Justice always begins with the crime victims, who are rarely heeded and often downright ignored by police, prosecutors, and judges. The author and her small staff listen carefully to victims of all kinds of violence. In most jurisdictions, a large percentage of perpetrators are never arrested. If an arrest occurs, well over 90 percent never reach the trial stage, and the vast majority of plea-bargained convictions terminate in private, with the victim nowhere near the negotiating venue. Even when conventional wisdom maintains that a prison sentence is a positive outcome for the victim, Sered has learned that rarely do victims heal quickly—if ever. The physical injuries and/or mental anguish do not disappear simply because a perpetrator is incarcerated. In addition to destroying myths about victimhood, the author attacks incarceration as a positive outcome for anybody, especially because prisons offer no accountability from the perpetrator that reaches the victim and no rehabilitation that benefits society eventually. Violence in every neighborhood must be attacked at its roots, Sered argues convincingly, and the evidence is overwhelming that mass incarceration never halts ongoing neighborhood violence. “If incarceration worked to secure safety,” she writes, “we would be the safest nation in all of human history….If incarceration worked to stop violence, we would have eradicated it by now—because no nation has used incarceration more.” The author provides clear, specific evidence for her contention that the new conventional wisdom must be survivor-centered, accountability-based, safety-driven, and racially equitable. The case studies of restorative justice that punctuate every chapter offer undeniable proof that Common Justice’s tactics are succeeding and should be more widely applied.
A top-notch entry into the burgeoning incarceration debate.