Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Post from Stephen Hartnett

Dear PCARE friends:

For the past twenty years, an ever-growing network of educators, activists, scholars, and artists has argued that the prison-industrial complex is a monstrous failure. While wasting billions of tax dollars on ill-conceived “Get Tough on Crime” policies, including especially the so-called War on Drugs, the prison system has reproduced the worst racial stereotypes and militarized policing patterns. The readers of this blog are of course familiar with these critiques and can add details and nuances to such arguments. But what we need now are answers: practical solutions for moving the argument forward. And so I want to recommend three recent contributions that help us move away from critical work towards creative work, from dissenting against the flawed system toward assenting to a better world, from lashing out at what is broken to journeying toward what we know works.

First, let me direct our blog readers to Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Administration and Congress, a new report by The Sentencing Project. The report contains common-sense proposals for reforming the worst abuses and excesses of the prison system. Written in clear prose, marshaling irrefutable evidence, and speaking in the tones of Washington D.C. policy reformers, the report offers the kinds of practical answers that we can use when meeting with legislators, the media, and other constituencies.

Second, let me direct readers to Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre, a wonderful new collection of essays edited by PCARE’s own Jonathan Shailor. As in his other works, this book offers a series of gorgeous case studies of how artists and educators have gone into prisons and used theater as a means of exploring, building, and supporting new routes to engaged citizenship.

Third, let me direct readers to Challenging the Prison-Industrial Complex: Activism, Arts, and Educational Alternatives, a new anthology of essays, including works by Buzz Alexander, Robin Sohnen, Lori Pompa, Garrett Albert Duncan, Jonathan Shailor, Erica Meiners, Daniel Larson, Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Travis Dixon, and Roze Braz and Myesha Williams. Five of these ten chapters include step-by-step advice for reproducing some of the most successful prison arts and activism projects in the country. The book also includes ten poems by imprisoned writers and ten beautiful color plates of images made by imprisoned artists.

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