time and punishment

William Widmer for The New York Times

William Widmer for The New York Times

In case you’ve missed the ongoing New York Times series TIME AND PUNISHMENT about the effects of U.S. incarceration policies on offenders, their families and communities, I’m reposting it here.  This collection of articles by reporter John Tierney sheds light on the very latest issues and trends.  It’s must-reading!

The first story, “For Lesser Crimes, Rethinking Life Behind Bars,” examines our current public policy of mass incarceration. (America has the highest reported rate in the world.) Onerous drug laws have resulted in thousands of low-level offenders imprisoned for life.

The Jan. 25th installment, “Prison Population Can Shrink When Police Crowd Streets,” details increasing state budgets spent on prisons (35 percent of criminal justice monies) over local policing (30 percent).  Tierney explores efforts in New York City to change that balance.

This past week, “Prison and Poverty Trap” was published.  It looks at the close relationship between doing time and confinement to a life of impoverishment.

Each of these articles fully mirrors my experience working with incarcerated women.  Read on …

mass incarceration nation

By gfpeck

By gfpeck

Last week’s New York Times featured a poignant article related to our work with the incarcerated.

“For Lesser Crimes, Thinking Life Behind Bars” detailed the mass incarceration mind-set present in our U.S. justice & corrections systems despite waning violence and crime rates since the 1990s:

Three decades of stricter drug laws, reduced parole and rigid sentencing rules have lengthened prison terms and more than tripled the percentage of Americans behind bars. The United States has the highest reported rate of incarceration of any country: about one in 100 adults, a total of nearly 2.3 million people in prison or jail.

This article provides a strong primer on some of the most challenging issues facing justice-involved persons, including mandatory sentencing laws, antiquated drug laws, the impacts upon children and families left without parents, and prison population rates compared to other industrialized nations.  Read on …

the caging of America

..that’s the title of Adam Gopnik’s Jan. 30th piece in The New Yorker.  Definitely worth reading.

A few poignant take-aways…

About prison“It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prison unendurable for inmates.”

About incarcerated women – “..whatever they have done and whatever punishment has been meted out affects their family much more than it affects them.  Many provided the sole source of support for their family..by removing their income from the equation, their families suffer.  Rent or mortgages can’t be paid, older children lose their chance at an education, extra jobs must be taken on..”

About mass incarceration in America – “The moral failings of advanced liberal societies..tend to be slow-motion sins….We allow the atmosphere to be filled with greenhouse gases; we allow the hypertrophic growth of inequality; we let the prison population grow to the size of a megalopolis.  And the key is that there’s no particular moment when they happened, no single event to expose and decry.  It’s the slow-motion violence of mass incarceration that enables it to elude our moral immune system.  Prisons stop time.”