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Everyone keeps telling me it’s going to be alright. Everyone keeps telling me they didn’t understand my work when I began in 2008 but now they do. They understand it because prison reform and criminal justice reform is in the news. They understand it because Orange Is The New Black is on their screens.

Everyone keeps telling me it is going to be okay because politicians and Departments of Corrections are trying to fix the problems. What? Back up. What makes you think that those who built the Prison Industrial Complex are best positioned to reverse its crimes and abuses?

I want to share in your optimism but I want to retain healthy skepticism toward careering politicians. Dan Berger just penned a sobering Op-Ed Getting The Money Out Of Prison Reform for Truthout.

It begins:

Much has been made about the bipartisan nature of contemporary efforts to end mass incarceration, as everyone from Newt Gingrich and the Koch Brothers to Van Jones and the American Civil Liberties Union, and now even Hillary Clinton, says that the United States needs to reduce the number of people it incarcerates in its own gulag archipelago. If all these people agree, the conventional wisdom goes, surely we can get something done. Are prisons the only thing that can end Washington gridlock?

And it ends:

To paraphrase the poet Gil Scott-Heron, “decarceration will not be incentivized,” decarceration will not be incentivized, decarceration will not be incentivized. Decarceration will not be incentivized.

Any OpEd that ends with that flourish gets my vote. A MUST READ.

Image source: CUNY

gitmo

On the final day of 2014, In These Times published George Lavender‘s thought-provoking and straightforward Q&A with some of the leading public voices on criminal justice reform.

Lavender asked for their “worst” and “best” moments in criminal justice in 2014, as well as inquiring what we should look out for in 2015. A good think piece.

Here’s my pick of the answers. From author Dan Berger on his “worst” moment:

“It is hard to pick an exact [worst 2014 criminal justice] moment; there are many contenders. But the combination of intransigence and self-congratulation displayed by various state officials who sustain mass incarceration and police violence. The conservative case for prison reform has attracted a lot of money and attention, and then gone on to claim victories for shrinking prison population through flawed “justice reinvestment” processes—the so-called Texas Miracle. But in fact, their politics of social austerity and expanded police power do not bring us any closer to ending mass incarceration; if anything, they have expanded the carceral state in the realms of policing and surveillance. Meanwhile, prison populations have not declined this year the way they did in year’s past; in some places they increased, while Guantanamo remains open and torture remains legal.”

— Dan Berger.

Follow Dan Berger and George Lavender on Twitter.

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