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Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1626562691
ISBN-10: 1626562695
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Editorial Reviews


“Maya Schenwar's stories about prisoners, their families (including her own), and the thoroughly broken punishment system are rescued from any pessimism such narratives might inspire by the author's brilliant juxtaposition of abolitionist imaginaries and radical political practices.”
Angela Y. Davis, author of Are Prisons Obsolete?

“This book has the power to transform hearts and minds, opening us to new ways of imagining what justice can mean for individuals, families, communities, and our nation as a whole. Maya Schenwar’s personal, openhearted sharing of her own family’s story, together with many other stories and real-world experiments with transformative justice, makes this book compelling, highly persuasive, and difficult to put down. I turned the last page feeling nothing less than inspired.”
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

“A tour de force! Schenwar has written a must-read, damning account of the twisted philosophy and practice of incarceration…Until society changes its approach toward its ‘offenders,’ until we leaven punishment with forgiveness, reconciliation, and restorative justice, we are all guilty as charged.”
Dennis J. Kucinich, US Congressman (1997–2013) and presidential candidate

“Locked Down, Locked Out paints a searing portrait of the real-life human toll of mass incarceration, both on prisoners and on their families, and—equally compellingly—provides hope that collectively we can create a more humane world freed of prisons. Read this deeply personal and political call to end the shameful inhumanity of our prison nation.”
Dorothy Roberts, author of Shattered Bonds and Killing the Black Body

“This moving book makes a very important intervention into both the popular understanding and the political discussions about the devastating impact of mass imprisonment. In her riveting descriptions of what happens to individuals and families caught in the long reach of the prison nation, Schenwar makes a compelling case for prison abolition and reinvestment in communities. This book will change both what we understand about injustice and how we work for more logical and effective solutions.”
Beth E. Richie, author of Arrested Justice

“I read Locked Down, Locked Out ravenously, surprised and enlightened on every page. It is a searing portrait of waywardness and redemption, justice arrested and deliverance detained. No one has narrated and illuminated the collateral damage of our carceral state more powerfully than Maya Schenwar.”
Bill Ayers, author of Fugitive Days and A Kind and Just Parent

“The prime excuse for imprisoning people—to punish wrongdoers and serve as a deterrent to others—is simply incorrect and unworkable…Maya Schenwar makes a powerful argument that our resources can better be utilized to provide treatment, education, restorative justice practices, healing circles, the arts, and more. I salute Maya and her courage. This book should stand out as key to finally ending the imprisoning of America.”
Luis J. Rodriguez, author of Always Running and Hearts and Hands

“Locked Down, Locked Out may be the best and most deeply moving book yet published on mass incarceration in the United States. Everyone who wants to understand what it means for the United States to recover a sense of dignity, justice, and the need for collective action should read this book.”
Henry A. Giroux, author of Disposable Youth and Twilight of the Social

“If Locked Down, Locked Out had been just about Maya’s family’s experience with her sister’s struggles with incarceration, it would have been worth the read. But Maya has given us more: the narratives of others and how incarceration weaves itself around the lives of those inside and out until all are entangled in the vicious web. She gives those whose names we have forgotten their names back and gives us all reason to destroy what has been this nation’s consistent and embarrassing failure."
R. Dwayne Betts, author of A Question of Freedom

“Schenwar doesn’t simply elucidate the many ways in which prisons destroy families and communities; she also brings readers into the everyday workings of real-life projects that begin to answer this question. Anyone who has ever felt concerned about the safety of our communities should read this book.”
Victoria Law, author of Resistance behind Bars

“Maya Schenwar’s authentic and compelling writing gives a glimpse into the lives of people who are trapped in the criminal justice system. Among books that aim to narrow the gap between law and justice, this is one of the finest.”
Kathy Kelly, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author of Other Lands Have Dreams

“Locked Down, Locked Out is a much-needed look at systems of social control with a big-picture perspective. A must-read.”
Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, founder of the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow

“Maya Schenwar’s book is a welcome contribution to the growing body of literature on mass incarceration. Read it and learn not only about how the criminal (in)justice system works and whom it affects but also where you fit into it. With lucidity and courage, Schenwar treats her subject in its entirety, helping us see the role played by those outside the walls.”
Laura Whitehorn, former political prisoner and editor of The War Before

“Maya Schenwar proves prisons are not the solutions society should seek but rather that we should see them as the problem—and take steps to restructure society to bring healing to communities and families.”
Dolores Canales, founder of California Families Against Solitary Confinement

“Locked Down, Locked Out does a remarkable thing: it provides a human audit of an inhuman system. Schenwar takes us on a harrowing, inspiring journey through the horrors of the prison nation, the effects that reverberate far beyond the prison walls, and the creative brilliance animating contemporary movements for justice.”
Dan Berger, author of Captive Nation and The Struggle Within

“Maya Schenwar’s story brings compassion into the picture, helping us understand our colossal failure in using prisons to warehouse people most in need of healing.”
Andrea James, author of Upper Bunkies Unite and founder of Families for Justice as Healing

“With vivid candor, Locked Down, Locked Out gets to the heart of one of the greatest tragedies of the prison system: the breakup of families. An enlightening journey.”
Deborah Jiang-Stein, author of Prison Baby

Book Description

Award-winning journalist Maya Schenwar chronicles how prison tears families and communities apart, creating a rippling effect that touches every corner of our society. Schenwar also delves into projects that successfully deal with problems―both individual harm and larger social wrongs―through connection rather than isolation, moving toward a safer, freer future for all of us.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1 edition (November 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1626562695
  • ISBN-13: 978-1626562691
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I know many people who are skeptical of prison reform, specifically the idea that there can be alternatives for dealing with people who commit particularly "evil" crimes. I feel like this book is one which will open skeptical minds and get them thinking. The skeptics will not be able to just dismiss this book as bleeding-heart liberalism... because it's a book that refuses to dodge the tough questions.

What do I mean by this? Well, the opening scene of the introduction describes the author's mixed feelings when her heroin-addicted sister ends up in jail, (again). The author writes, "Later, when I pick up the phone and hear a robotic voice announce, 'You have a collect call from the Cook County Jail: press five to take the call,' I press the hang-up button and get back into bed."

As a whole, the book makes the argument that connection to friends, family, and community outside of prison is what rehabilitates people (and therefore the prison-industrial complex hobbles rehabilitation by making this connection difficult.) And yet the author opens the book with a scene where the task of connecting with her newly incarcerated sister, was something that was just too much to handle in that particular moment. What this honesty means to me, is the author is not white-washing the difficulty of pursuing the alternative solutions. The alternative solutions are hard.

But the status quo is one of tremendous cruelty, that doesn't even make us safer. The author shares compelling evidence that prison makes prisoners MORE likely, not less likely, to commit another crime. We're paying huge amounts of taxpayer dollars for a service that makes us LESS SAFE! That is just insane. What would be the easiest way to get safer?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The similarities between mass incarceration and mass murder have been haunting me for a while, and I now find myself inspired by Maya Schenwar's excellent new book Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better. This is one of three books everyone should read right away. The others are The New Jim Crow and Burning Down the House, the former with a focus on racism in incarceration, the latter with a focus on the incarceration of youth. Schenwar's is an overview of incarceration in all its absurd and unfathomable evil -- as well as being a spotlight leading away from this brutal institution.

Locked Down, Locked Out is both an incomparably put together report incorporating statistics and studies with individual quotations and anecdotes, and a personal story of how incarceration has impacted the author's own family and how the author has thought through the complex issues.

Yes, I did recently write an article specifically criticizing the widespread habit of calling everything a "war," and I do still want to see that practice ended -- but not because the linguistic quirk offends me, rather because we make so many things, to one degree or another, actually be like wars. As far as I have seen, no other practice bears remotely as much similarity to war as does prison. How so? Let me count the ways.

1. Both are distinctly American. No other nation spends as much on its military or its prisons, engages in as many wars or locks up as many people.

2. Both are seemingly simple and easy solutions that don't solve anything, but seek to hide it away at a distance. Wars are waged thousands of miles from home. Prisoners are stored out-of-sight hundreds or thousands of miles from home.

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Format: Paperback
A profoundly moving book that will shake your bones and rattle your brain. As a nation, we pay an extremely heavy price for a system of "justice" that seems more suited to the the Middle Ages. Read this book if you want to probe deeply into other possibilities. How well I remember working with young women (ages 13-17) in a juvenile detention center. Their stories of rape, incest, poverty tear your heart--particularly when coupled with statements about illiteracy and joblessness. I realized then that until we do something radically different and seek solutions other than prison, we are doomed. Restorative justice, compassion, and community involvement are critical. Maya offers both substance and soulfulness.
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Format: Paperback
Maya Schenwar gives us a touching, informative, thought-provoking and deeply personal look at how terribly broken the prison system is, the effect it has on the individuals caught in this self-perpetuating system, the effect on their families, and on society at large. You will you will see how we are all caught in this system and contribute to it.

This is a beautifully written book, that will touch your heart, stimulate your thinking, and intelligently offers some realistic alternatives for consideration. I highly recommend Locked Down, Locked Out!
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Format: Paperback
This is a gripping book, which grabbed me from the first sentence and held my attention the entire way through - I could not put it down! Through deeply moving stories, including her own personal journey, the author reveals the harsh realities of prison for both the people behind bars and their long suffering families, providing deep insight into the ramifications and ripple effect of prisons. It really opened my mind and gave me an entirely new perspective. Page after page, she provides a convincing argument, backed by fascinating facts and research, for why prisons are destroying families and communities. And how we can implement new, more effective ways of justice that heal instead of hurt. I can't imagine anyone would disagree after reading this engrossing and enlightening book. I highly recommend it.
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