Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

"This well-written, thoroughly-researched book presents the argument that popular prison “reforms” are simply expansions of the prison industrial complex and do not ultimately make us any safer. In fact, for the most part, these alternatives reinforce existing narratives of criminality, personal responsibility, racism, and disdain for the impoverished. They convincingly show that often these solutions cause more harm than rehabilitation, layering on penalties for poverty and systemic obstacles. Ultimately, the adoption of these alternatives expands the net of incarceration, with a narrow, unimaginative focus on control and confinement over true justice and holistic healing. The book is rife with compelling examples. People are left with limited choices, no support, basic needs unmet, and significant stigma, then expected to rebuild their lives or maintain a functioning position in society. This paradigm is broken and unfair. In the final chapter, Schenwar and Law offer a broader vision for moving beyond alternatives, championing community-based interventions and a societal shift from being punishment-oriented to being liberation- and healing-oriented. This book is worth your time. Michelle Alexander wrote the foreword and Angela Davis endorsed it, so if you don’t take it from me, take it from them."

— From Holly


A crucial indictment of widely embraced alternatives to incarceration that exposes how many of these new approaches actually widen the net of punishment and surveillance

But what does it mean--really--to celebrate reforms that convert your home into your prison?
--Michelle Alexander, from the foreword

Electronic monitoring. Locked-down drug treatment centers. House arrest. Mandated psychiatric treatment. Data-driven surveillance. Extended probation. These are some of the key alternatives held up as cost-effective substitutes for jails and prisons. But many of these so-called reforms actually widen the net, weaving in new strands of punishment and control, and bringing new populations, who would not otherwise have been subject to imprisonment, under physical control by the state.

As mainstream public opinion has begun to turn against mass incarceration, political figures on both sides of the spectrum are pushing for reform. But--though they're promoted as steps to confront high rates of imprisonment--many of these measures are transforming our homes and communities into prisons instead.

In Prison by Any Other Name, activist journalists Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law reveal the way the kinder, gentler narrative of reform can obscure agendas of social control and challenge us to question the ways we replicate the status quo when pursuing change. A foreword by Michelle Alexander situates the book in the context of criminal justice reform conversations. Finally, the book offers a bolder vision for truly alternative justice practices.

About the Author

Maya Schenwar is the editor-in-chief of Truthout. She is co-author (with Victoria Law) of Prison by Any Other Name as well as the author of Locked Down, Locked Out and the co-editor of the anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? She lives in Chicago. Victoria Law is a freelance journalist and the co-author (with Maya Schenwar) of Prison by Any Other Name as well as the author of Resistance Behind Bars and co-editor of Don't Leave Your Friends Behind. She is a co-founder of NYC Books Through Bars and lives in New York.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781620973103
ISBN-10: 1620973103
Publisher: New Press
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Pages: 240
Language: English