Through the stories of prisoners and their families, including her own family’s experiences, Maya Schenwar shows how the institution that locks up 2.3 million Americans and decimates poor communities of color is shredding the ties that, if nurtured, could foster real collective safety. As she vividly depicts here, incarceration takes away the very things that might enable people to build better lives. But looking toward a future beyond imprisonment, Schenwar profiles community-based initiatives 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.
About the Author
Maya Schenwar is editor-in-chief of Truthout, an independent social-justice news website. She has written about the prison-industrial complex for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Newark Star-Ledger, Ms. magazine, and others. Previous to joining Truthout, Maya was contributing editor at Punk Planet magazine and served as publicity coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
“Schenwar's thoughtful analysis of a deeply flawed system centers on this personal experience, augmented by dozens of interviews with inmates and their family members across the country.” -Publisher’s Weekly
“Schenwar, editor in chief of social justice website Truthout, has written extensively about prisons, but the topic hit home for the author when her sister Kayla was incarcerated on drug charges. Kayla's experience in jail impelled Schenwar to pen this book in order to ask for reforms in the system. In particular, the author discusses the often overlooked effects on the family and the community of incarcerated people. In addition to her sister, Schenwar considers other inmates who have committed more serious crimes and suggests ways that these, too, could have been better handled. The complexity of the current criminal justice system means that many of her ideas seem pie in the sky, but certainly they are worth a second glance. Given the author's personal involvement, she deserves kudos for bringing them to light. VERDICT This book should be read by students and professionals in criminal justice. Since it has an easy-to-read style, it should also be of interest to the general reader who simply wishes to know what it's like to be behind bars.” -Frances O. Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
“Schenwar illustrates how making a fundamental move away from isolation and toward connection has the potential to liberate our energies and to free our imaginations.” -Bill Ayers, Truth-Out
“Locked Down, Locked Out breaks through this disinterest in a couple pointed ways. The first is that talks about prison through a personal story. Schenwar’s story feels honest because her sister is not that way—her family acknowledges that she has drug problems and even at one point feels safer knowing she’s in prison than running around on her own.” -Sarah Mirk, Bitch Media
“Maya Schenwar’s newly released book, Locked Down, Locked Out, weaves together excellent political analysis with her personal perspective to demonstrate how our current prison system fails both prisoners and those on the outside.” -Suzana Bobadilla, Feministing
“While Schenwar shows how prison is not the answer to addiction, her dedication to a better world is inspiring, and convincing too: there are solutions to what often feels like despair.” -Jean Trounstine, JeanTroustine.com
“Deftly weaving her own personal experiences with her sister’s incarceration alongside the stories of prisoners who she has been writing to over the last eight years, Schenwar illustrates the devastating effects of prisons on those who are incarcerated, their families, and our communities. With her book, she not only offers a searing analysis of the prison industrial complex but also possibilities for creating alternatives to mass incarceration.” -Alice Kim, Praxis Center
“What I appreciated most about the book is the consistent emphasis on the need for connection between people. Locked Down understands that relationships matter greatly. Connection and relationships are the very things that prisons excel at destroying.” -US Prison Culture
“Unlike other books about the devastation caused by prisons, Schenwar doesn’t simply describe the problems and then propose policy recommendations to decrease the number of people sent to jails and prisons. Instead, she devotes half of her book to examining existing programs that attempt to address violence and other forms of harm without relying on prisons or prison-like alternatives, weaving these alternatives in as she describes the harm and violence that prisons cause.” -Victoria Law, Waging Nonviolence
“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.” -David Swanson, War Is A Crime
“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