Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better looks at how prison tears families and communities apart, creating a rippling effect that touches every corner of our society. Through the stories of prisoners and their families, as well as her own family’s experience of her sister’s incarceration, 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.
The destruction does not end upon exiting the prison walls: the 95 percent of prisoners who are released emerge with even fewer economic opportunities and fewer human connections on the outside than before. Locked Down, Locked Out shows how incarceration takes away the very things that might enable people to build better lives.
Looking toward a future beyond imprisonment, Schenwar profiles community-based initiatives that foster antiracist, anticlassist, prohumanity approaches to justice. These programs 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.
Maya Schenwar is Editor-in-Chief of Truthout, an independent social justice news website. She has written about the prison-industrial complex for Truthout, The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Jersey Star-Ledger, Ms. Magazine, Prison Legal News, and others. She is the recipient of a Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Chi Award and a Lannan Residency Fellowship, both for her writing on prisons. Previous to her work at Truthout, Maya was Contributing Editor at Punk Planet magazine and served as media coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence.