The United States has the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world. But are we any safer? Journalist Maya Schenwar proves that locking people up actually makes society less safe - and that there are alternatives that do a better job of deterring crime and providing justice for victims. Schenwar looks at how incarceration breaks the bonds that hold people together and deprives incarcerated people of exactly the kind of support and life skills necessary to reintegrate into society - which is why more than two-thirds of prisoners are re-arrested within three years of release. She draws heavily on her personal experience (her sister has spent the better part of ten years entangled in the system), as well as the struggles of other prisoners and their families.Far from advocating the complete abolition of prisons, Schenwar simply argues that they shouldn't be the only approach. She describes how highly effective alternative justice programs in the US and other countries do a better job of both preventing recidivism and providing meaningful restitution to victims. Above all, however, Schenwar seeks to convince her readers that prisoners, for all their hurtful deeds, shouldn't be treated as "non-persons." Her book is a passionate argument that "throwing away the key" ultimately hurts individuals and society.
Maya Schenwar is Executive Director of Truthout, a blogger for Ms. Magazine and is the co-coordinator of the Chicago chapter of Women, Action and the Media. She was a Contributing Editor at Punk Planet magazine, and has written for In These Times, AlterNet, Zeek Magazine, TheNation.com, Bitch Magazine, Common Dreams, Z Magazine and others. She also served as a publicity coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence.