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Month: December 2013

We’ve locked ourselves up and thrown away the keys

“What grows clearer every year is that the incarcerating state is not feared. It is seen as a palliative to a fear of violent crime, a fear mobilized by political parties and candidates desperate to find points of contact with a distant and disaffected electorate. While the state has not prevented job loss, workplace disempowerment, spiraling health care costs, and the disintegration of educational institutions from kindergarten to university, those seeking official positions can gain credibility by promising to get tough on crime. What such rhetoric implies may be even more significant, namely that the state is ‘for’ the law abiding and ‘against’ offenders, that even the most economically insecure among the law-abiding have a robust civic status in comparison to the lawbreakers.  To say that Americans lack a sober fear of this swollen system of cruelty—and, indeed, use it as a mode of making social distinctions—is not to discount the pain and suffering of the victims of violent crime. It is only to draw attention to something hiding in plain sight. The public is both inured to and invested in this reality that is seen too much and too little.  We see it constantly in the virtual world of criminal justice television, where hard treatment, shame, and degradation of prisoners are frequently portrayed as added consequences of breaking the rules and rarely as civic problems.” – Albert W. Dzur, “Twelve Absent Men”

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