Thursday, June 27, 2013

Incarceration Generation: The Book by Justice Policy Institute

By Victoria Ravenel        

Contrary to popular belief, crime has not risen over the past decade. It has, in fact, decreased substantially. And yet, at the same time, a mass incarceration pandemic has swept the nation, and the U.S. now locks up more of its citizens than any other country. This crisis spills over into the lives of everyone: the incarcerated person’s family, the victims, the courts, the government, youth, tax-paying citizens, you, me, us.  Whether you know someone who has been incarcerated or not, you are undoubtedly affected in some way.

The “whys” and “hows” of this crisis, its rise over the past 40 years, and the weight it bears on the shoulders of our generation is detailed statistically, anecdotally, and graphically in the Justice Policy Institute’s new book, IncarcerationGeneration (ISBN 978-0-9892928-0-1), released hot off the presses this week. The book of essays is a collaboration between JPI and the leading thinkers and activists in the criminal justice field, covering the people most affected by the criminal justice system such as youth, women, and the mentally ill, and aspects of the broken system including specialty courts, policing, and drug policy.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is found in the foreword, written by New York Times Bestseller Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcerationin the Age of Colorblindess.” She describes her visit to a school where she could almost taste the rage and pain of so many kids, all of whom knew someone who had been incarcerated.  She goes on to say, “In that silence and in those cries lies a truth that we, as a nation, have been unwilling to face.”

The 10x10-sized book features a timeline poster that graphically displays our increasing dependence on ineffective and costly juvenile and criminal justice policies. The timeline from 1969 to 2013 includes events such as the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) by President Richard Nixon, and legislation to stiffen drug offense sentences in 1973 supported by New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

The book was released Tuesday, June 25 with a book discussion and signing event featuring Julie Stewart, a contributing author and the executive director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.  On July 9 at Busboys & Poets (14th & V Streets) Nkechi Taifa of the Open Society Institute and Will Marling of the National Organization for VictimAssistance; and on July 10 in Open Society Institute-Baltimore featuring Neill Franklin of Law EnforcementAgainst Prohibition and Greg Carpenter, a formerly incarcerated advocate.

Plans are currently being made for events in California, Chicago, New York and several more in the nation’s capitol.

Tori is JPI's communications intern.

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