The prison problem, from several angles

The January 28 issue of Commonweal features a package of articles on "America's Prison Problem." In "Cruel & Unusual: The True Costs of Our Prison System," sociologists Robert DeFina and Lance Hannon explore the effects that "mass incarceration" has on individuals and communities, and call for an approach to the problem that is based on a sense of "community justice," or the consideration of the community as an organic whole whose treatment should be subject to the demands of justice."Also in this issue: in "Worth Taking a Chance," Joseph Sorrentino reports on a program in Rochester, NY, designed to help released prisoners adjust to life on the outside and avoid returning to jail. And a current inmate, Chandra Bozelko, describes how her time in prison has helped her access the humility necessary to begin a real relationship with God.As it happens, The Wilson Quarterly (er, no relation) also focuses on the prison problem in its winter 2011 issue. If you have an appetite for more after reading through the latest Commonweal, check out "Beyond the Prison Bubble," in which Joan Petersilia wonders whether we are "seeing the beginning of the end of America's long commitment to what some critics call 'mass incarceration.'" Her overview of the situation touches on many of the same points as DeFina and Hannon's, including the negative impact that incarceration can have on communities. The issue also has an article by Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig proposing "cost-effective" ways to bring down crime. Those two are subscriber-only, but a highly informative piece by Alex Tabarrok on the business of bail bondsmen is free to the public.

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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