Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Release from the Against Equality Collective

Readers of this blog will likely find the most recent release from the Against Equality Collective of interest. Entitled Prisons Will Not Protect You, the volume advances a queer critique of hate crime legislation, passionately making the argument that strengthening the prison-industrial complex is not the right way to address social inequality. To the contrary, the editors argue, the higher incarceration rates that result from such laws only exacerbate social stratification.

This appears to be a powerful, provocative intervention into critical prison studies and queer theory.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

National Council on Crime and Delinquency Announces Media Awards Call for Entries

This may be of interest to PCARE members and fellow travelers:

"The Media for a Just Society (MJS) Awards program is the only national recognition of print, web, and broadcast journalists; TV news and feature reporters, producers, and writers; and creators of films and literature whose work furthers public understanding of criminal justice, juvenile justice, child welfare, and adult protection issues."

DL Hughley on the PIC

In case you missed it on last night's Daily Show, comedian DL Hughley offered some hilarious and spot-on commentary on private prisons and other institutional forces that render black men an "endangered species."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Norway: A Model for Prison Reform

With an eye toward prison reform, it's often beneficial to look to successful programs to see what they are doing right...and what we can do better.

Norwegian prisons have been in the news a lot over the past year. Most of the stories focus on Norway's alternate approach to incarceration, or, as one story puts it, "Norway's controversial cushy prison experiment."'  The media often seems to "scoff" at  the "perks" that Norwegian inmates enjoy. Yet, those on the inside (of the country that is) think differently about incarceration.

 Nils Christie, professor emeritus at the University of Oslo, has written several books about the stark contrast between the Scandinavian and American prison systems. Christie offers both thoughtful critiques and suggestions for improvement in several of his works.

A Suitable Amount of Crime
Crime Control as Industry

In addition, a Finnish television station has recently joined the conversation. The TV station has been working on a documentary that highlights the unique attributes of the prison systems in Scandinavia. A recent story posted in a Norwegian newspaper, loosely translated "Is this a Prison?", describes the shock that Attica correctional officer James Conway experienced while touring several Scandinavian prisons as part of the documentary project. Conway is quoted in the article as saying "I had to blink to make sure that I was still in prison." The article goes on to highlight the contrasts between the prisoner experience in the two countries in relation to inmate-correctional officer relationships, privacy, activities, and access. In all, this news story offers one example of a more humane view on incarceration. And while a complete transfer of all of Norway's facilities and policies is unlikely, there is much to be learned from a system that is so far removed from our own.

Christie's (2004) words are particularly fitting here:
"We should not always start with offences and offenders, and then ask what ought to be done. We should turn the whole thing upside down. We should start with the system of sanctions and here take basic values as our point of departure. We should ask: What sort of pain and what sort of distribution of pain do we find acceptable for our type of society?...We cannot say, not concretely and exactly, when enough is enough. But we can say that punishment is an activity low in the rank of values. Punishment should therefore be the last alternative, not the first one" (p. 108).

Christie, N. (2004). A suitable amount of crime. New York: Routledge. 

You can find the "Is this a prison" story~ in Norwegian ~ here.
Copy the text and past it into google translate for the full translation.
It's truly worth the read.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Breaking Down "Stop & Frisk"

Check out this powerful and illuminating info-graphic from the Center for Constitutional Rights regarding New York's controversial "stop and frisk." policy.

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Prison Justice Blog by Jean Trounstine

Justice with Jean


Jean Trounstine is an activist, author and professor at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Massachusetts who worked at Framingham Women’s Prison for ten years where she directed eight plays with prisoners. Her highly-praised book about that work, Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison has been featured on NPR, The Connection, Here and Now, and in numerous print publications here and abroad. In addition, she has spoken around the world on women in prison, co-founded the women’s branch of Changing Lives Through Literature, an award-winning alternative sentencing program featured in The New York Times and on The Today Show, and co-authored two books about the program. She published a book of poetry, Almost Home Free, and co-edited the New England best-seller, Why I’m Still Married: Women Write Their Hearts Out On Love, Loss, Sex, and Who Does the Dishes. Jean is on the steering committee of the Coalition for Effective Public Safety in Massachusetts and is currently working on a new book about the tragedy of sentencing juveniles to adult prisons.

Friday, October 5, 2012

California Ends LWOP for Children

Just as voters in the Golden State consider a referendum that would abolish the death penalty (something, interestingly, that not all death row inmates support), Governor Jerry Brown has just signed a law ending life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles!