Book Summary: Until We Reckon by Danielle Sered (Chapters 5-7)
Chapter 5
In chapter five, Sered explores the potential of policy making in addressing the problem of mass incarceration in America. She starts by observing that in any setting, effective policies result from the existence of a culture that promotes positive social change and progressive ideas. In making this observation, the author alludes to the idea that the American culture is not ideal for policies that can help to reverse the trend of mass incarceration and decongest American’s prisons. For instance, she observes, the existence of minimum jail terms for specific crimes reflects America’s cultural attitude towards crime and violence; that the solution to crime is punitive measures. At the same time, it reflects the culture of separating offenders from society as a means of protecting law-abiding citizens from the bad elements in society. This attitude of not wanting to mix with offenders creates distance between incarcerated individuals and society, such that they still remain outcasts upon completion of their jail term.
Yet, Sered argues, America cannot wait for its culture to change before it can create the right policies. She observes that it is possible to change the current policies to make them more oriented towards offender rehabilitation and less towards punishment and alienation. This is because jail term can have unintended consequences, such as making the offender feel that society has cast them away to suffer because of their actions. Bitterness and failure to learn could explain the trend of released inmates getting jailed again for similar or other crimes.

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