Smoke and Mirrors: Essential Questions About “Prison Reform”

It is vitally important for those of us who have been fighting the prison-industrial complex PIC – and the brutalities foundational to it –  to inquire more deeply into the reform measures being offered and the data that seem to tell us the nation is actually stumbling toward unity on dismantling mass incarceration.

Are we?  Or will many of these reforms simply shift prison-based social control, particularly of Black, Native, and Latino/a communities to a more widespread and varied but still profit-producing network of “community corrections?”  Who’s calling the shots on what will happen and how it will happen?  Have community members, activists, and advocates thought carefully about possible unintended consequences of reforms that may be quickly embraced with too little scrutiny and analysis?

For some time, Criminal InJustice has raised critical questions about the reality of both policy claims and the legitimacy of so-called reforms. What follows is a series of such questions designed to help us all further navigate what may be, in some measure, a shell game, a package of proposals that are, in some measure, deceptively marketed. Each of these areas of inquiry – and others that will arise along the way – deserves more thoughtful attention, and we will be addressing them over time.

But for now, we offer a road map and a flashlight.

If the promised reforms really are substantive and implemented in ways that demonstrate integrity – and if they are actually intended to help dismantle a policing/prosecution/incarceration emphasis in the criminal legal system – then politicians and policy advocates will be able to fully and transparently respond to the questions we pose here, as well as new ones that will arise along the way.

via Smoke and Mirrors: Essential Questions About “Prison Reform”.


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