“Prisons Make Us Safer”: And 20 Other Myths about Mass Incarceration

Beacon. Apr. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9780807029527. pap. $17. LAW
Prison abolitionist and journalist Law (Resistance Behind Bars) attempts to disprove common myths about incarceration in this brief, wide-ranging text. Dividing the work into four parts—the prison population boom, social services in prisons, overlooked groups (women and transgender people), and restorative and transformative justice—Law refutes a myth in each of 21 chapters; for instance, the claim that prisons provide much-needed health care services, and the claim that immigration detention is a separate issue from the mass incarceration debate. She makes a point to use the term “criminal legal system” rather than “criminal justice system” because, she notes, the system often fails to deliver justice for either offenders or victims. While writing this book, Law solicited feedback from incarcerated people, and she uses direct quotes from their correspondence as evidence for her arguments. She also includes a useful further reading section and comprehensive endnotes. However, chapters are short and lack depth; the chapter on murder and rape is the weakest. Problems are easily identified, but the book doesn’t propose solutions, leaving readers to wonder how to move forward. It is questionable whether Law’s strong point of view will appeal to readers who do not already share her beliefs.
VERDICT While this book may be useful for academic libraries, public libraries are better served by other titles, such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.
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