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12 Steps Beyond Prisons

A 12-step program for re-inventing criminal justice

cover of the book Beyond Prisons
Read Carol Estes' review of Beyond Prisons

YES number1

Abolish Punishment

Advocate not just the abolition of prisons, but the abolition of a system based on punishment, revenge, and violence

 


 

YES number2

Decriminalize social problems

Decrease the use of incarceration to solve social problems such as mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction.

 


 

YES number3

Eliminate Solitary Confinement

Charles Dickens once observed, “I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.”

 


 

YES number4

Work Inside as Long as Necessary

Work in solidarity with the imprisoned, the survivors, and the family members, but do not turn your back on anyone struggling within the system, including guards, judges, police officers. Be truthful about the injustices you witness.

 

 


 

YES number5

Citizen Review

Create independent citizen review bodies that include ex-prisoners and family members to oversee police work, all locked facilities, and community-based programs using public funds.

 


 

YES number6

Create a Prisoner’s Bill of Rights

Guarantee that a person whose freedom has been taken away retains full due-process and legal rights as well as basic human rights. Prisoners should have the rights to vote, sign contracts, marry, and inherit property.

 


 

YES number7

Protect the Rights of Released Prisoners

Parole hearings should focus on the future, not on the original crime. Survivors should not be permitted to testify at parole hearings, and survivors should not be appointed to the parole board simply because they are survivors.

 


 

YES number8

Amend the Thirteenth Amendment

The U.S. Constitution permits “slavery and involuntary servitude” as a punishment for crime. Amend the Thirteenth Amendment to establish consistent minimum standards for everyone.

 


 

YES number9

Implement International Law

The U.S. has violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It is one of two countries (Somalia is the other) that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 


 

YES number10

Let Children be Children

Instead of passing laws that treat juveniles as if they were adults, invest in our children and in our future by fully funding education, from pre-school through university.

 


 

YES number11

Reclaim Families and Communities

The estimated additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all, and safe water and sanitation for all is roughly $40 billion a year,…less than 4 percent of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world.

 


 

YES number12

Campaign for Reparations

Seek reparations for a wide range of injustices, such as the legacy of slavery and the extermination, relocation, and robbery of First Nations people and others. True justice can occur only in the context of social and economic justice.

 


Adapted from Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison System by Laura Magnani & Harmon L. Wray

Read Carol Estes' review of the book.

 

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