Important reading for anyone involved in the criminal justice system.
A useful survey of a variety of “alternatives to incarceration.”
Truthout editor-in-chief Schenwar and Law, the co-founder of NYC Books Through Bars, critique efforts by reformers seeking to significantly reduce the prison population. Both authors have firsthand experience with the criminal justice system: Schenwar’s sister, a heroin addict, spent more than 14 years in a variety of detention centers and on parole and probation; as a teenager, Law was arrested for armed robbery and served five years of probation. Now journalists on the front lines of the incarceration issue, the authors offer a massively researched book about not just prison reform, but about the people who are trying to effect needed change. They show that although advocates are almost universally well intentioned, not all of the work has led to progress. In a poignant foreword, Michelle Alexander sets the tone, discussing how both high-tech digital prisons and lower-tech control mechanisms are often as harsh as what can be found inside traditional jails and prisons. Schenwar and Law build on the foreword skillfully and persuasively, explaining with case studies, anecdotes, and scholarly research how many of the new pathways are about controlling those deemed criminals, about punishment rather than rehabilitation. Those who avoid a physical prison cell for a year through a plea bargain or some other protocol often end up with years of house arrest wearing a costly, confining ankle monitor followed by additional years of scrutiny by a probation officer. Many POs report negligibly small violations, which puts the offender back into the prison system. The authors also illuminate the mechanics of mandatory drug treatment facilities, mental illness centers, sex offender regimens, prostitution “rescue” programs, foster care placements, and school-to-prison pipelines. Regarding the last, the authors write that “it is time to challenge the notion that surveillance and policing are the answers to school-based violence. School safety does not come in the form of a uniform, a badge, and a gun.”Important reading for anyone involved in the criminal justice system.
Pub Date: July 21, 2020
Page Count: 240
Publisher: The New Press
Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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