During the last ten years, a critique of mass imprisonment has become significantly more mainstream in the United States. 2015 witnessed a U.S. President visiting a federal prison, new legislation to reduce drug sentences and more widespread media coverage of the racial disparities of the criminal justice system. For many commentators, these developments signal a profound shift in our longstanding punitive orientation toward crime. However, the shifting discourses surrounding crime and punishment contemporarily signal a moment of danger as well as opportunity. It is vital that we move beyond band-aid approaches to mass imprisonment and that we unpack the constitutive imaginings that rendered mass imprisonment a legible project from the outset. Seemingly progressive trends such as prop 47 or prisoner reentry initiatives will simply bolster racialized state violence in the absence of a critique of the logics at the heart of this system.

 

Photo credit: Sean Munson via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: Sean Munson via Foter.com / CC BY-SA
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