I appreciate books that bust myths about social issues in society. Myths function as meaning-making events that extend a false, incomplete, and often compromised narrative perpetually into the future. Perpetuating myths ensure a forgery of memories and a disconnect between cause and effect in the present.
A recent book by prolific freelance journalist and author Victoria Law, "Prison Make Us Safer" – and 20 Other Myths about Mass Incarceration, provides a thorough undoing of the social, political, legal, and cultural myths that justify and maintain the ongoing addiction to mass incarceration.
Prisons Make Us Safer "explains how racism and social control were the catalysts for mass incarceration and have continued to be its driving force: from the post-Civil War laws that states passed to imprison former slaves, to the laws passed under the "War Against Drugs" campaign that disproportionately imprison Black people. [Law] breaks down these complicated issues into four main parts:
1. The rise and cause of mass incarceration
2. Myths about prison
3. Misconceptions about incarcerated people
4. How to end mass incarceration"
Within these four sections, Law identifies, unpacks, and demonstrates the social function of "21 key myths that propel and maintain mass incarceration, including:
• The system is broken and we simply need some reforms to fix it
• Incarceration is necessary to keep our society safe
• Prison is an effective way to get people into drug treatment
• Private prison corporations drive mass incarceration"
Check out Law's other books: Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press 2009), Prison By Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reform (New Press 2020), and co-editor of Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities (PM Press 2012).
Here is an archive of Law's journalistic writing for the past 12 years.