Voices of Justice Now: Why is the search still on for “better” punishment?

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Allison Forth, former client coordinator for Justice Now, just finished her Masters in Social Work at Hunter College of Social Work. Allison hopes to help create accountable and sustainable community interventions and programs that are not a part of the criminal legal system.
California is taking a fast turn down the wrong path by building “gender-responsive� prisons. Instead of getting caught up in the urgency of the prison crisis by attempting to create “better� punishment, we should say no to “Female Rehabilitative Community Correctional Centers� on the state and county levels.
Some critical questions we need to ask ourselves include: is it ethical or even possible to create comprehensive and effective treatment in a prison setting? Will “gender-responsive� prison expansion help stop the suffering caused by imprisonment, or is it a band-aid solution that will result in only more lives caught up in the criminal legal system? Will this “gender responsive� prison expansion help solidify the fact that prison is one of the only places female-bodied people and trans women from communities of color and poor communities can access often neglectful and abusive treatment, whether it be healthcare, mental health services or substance abuse treatment?
“Gender-responsive� prison expansion is unethical: it expands a prison system that tears
people and their families’ lives apart. It masks the realities of continued imprisonment with words by calling these mini prisons “community-based facilities� or “group homes�.
Instead of pushing for more prisons, let’s invest in genuine resources for our communities. The challenge has been put forth: as social workers and social service providers, will we take part in prison expansion that will continue to harm individuals and families or help to build better communities?

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