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PRISON BY ANY OTHER NAME

THE HARMFUL CONSEQUENCES OF POPULAR REFORMS

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

ISBN: 978-1-62097-310-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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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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