“Convincing, creatively effective arguments for the dismantling of mass incarceration.”
“Law has offered us a very important tool. Her careful and accessible analysis, her feminist approach, and her methodical demystification of widely held views about incarceration enable precisely the kind of understanding we need at this moment.”
—Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz
“Law brilliantly uses facts, figures, and moving and enraging stories from incarcerated people to bring to light important and misunderstood facets of our singularly massive criminal legal system. . . . An essential book that demands attention and action.”
—Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison
“In this timely, powerfully persuasive, and relevant book, Law looks at some of the most damaging myths and misconceptions about mass incarceration. This is a must-read for those interested in the truth about mass incarceration and solutions to address it.”
—Talitha LeFlouria, author of Chained in Silence
“Think you haven’t fallen prey to the myths around mass incarceration? Think again. . . . This is the book we need, as movements sweep across the US challenging injustices in policing and incarceration, to show us our history, analyze our current policies, and chart the way forward.”
—Jeanne Theoharis, author of A More Beautiful and Terrible History
A Note on Language
PART 1: WHAT DRIVES THE MASS INCARCERATION BOOM? MYTHS ABOUT THE CAUSE OF MASS INCARCERATION
The system of mass incarceration is flawed and not working as designed (or, A brief history).
We need prisons to make us safer.
Prisons are places of rehabilitation.
Private prison corporations drive mass incarceration.
Private corporations and profit from prison labor drive mass incarceration.
Race has nothing to do with mass incarceration (or, If people of color are disproportionately incarcerated, it’s because they commit more crimes).
“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” People need to take personal responsibility for their actions.
PART 2: THE MYTHS OF PRISONS AS SERVICE PROVIDERS AND SAFETY NETS
Jails and prisons provide people with needed mental health care.
People in prison “jump the line” for life-saving medical care.
Incarceration is an effective way to get people into drug treatment.
PART 3: THE INVISIBLE PEOPLE BEHIND THE WALLS
Mass incarceration only affects Black cisgender men.
Bringing up a history of abuse and violence is simply an “abuse excuse.”
Mass incarceration and immigrant detention are unrelated issues that can be addressed separately.
PART 4: HOW DO WE END MASS INCARCERATION?
Most people are in prison for nonviolent drug offenses. Let them out and we’ll end mass incarceration.
People in prison don’t resist or organize against abusive conditions.
Prisons keep us safe from murderers and rapists.
Incarceration and sex offender registries are necessary to keep our children safe.
The system is broken and we simply need some reforms to fix it.
We should make our prisons more like those in Norway.
Prisons are the only logical and evident way to address violent crime and meet the needs of victims.
Even if societal and political conditions are to blame, there’s nothing we can do about it.
For Further Reading