CLCM Monthly Reader: November

Once a month, we feature relevant news, articles, and links about issues concerning criminal justice, incarceration alternatives, and the influence of literature on our lives. Click on the red text to open the site in a new window.

Check out our links below and give us your take on one or more of the issues they address. Have you read or watched something (a book, newspaper article, website, news clip, etc.) interesting lately? Tell us about it in the comments section!


Justice Transition CoalitionSmart on Crime: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress

On November 6, the 2009 Justice Transition Coalition released its recommendations for the Obama administration and members of Congress. From their site: 

After the 2008 elections, America’s policymakers will take a fresh look at the criminal justice system, which so desperately needs their attention. To assist with that review, leaders and experts from all aspects of the criminal justice community spent months collaboratively identifying key issues and gathering policy advice into one comprehensive set of recommendations for the new administration and Congress. This catalogue is the fruit of those labors.

The report calls for reform in fifteen key justice-related areas. Take a look at their recommendations for expanding alternatives to incarceration in federal sentencing guidelines and suggestions for juvenile justice reform.  

 


  

 

photo by David Levene for The GuardianShafts of Sunlight

In this article from the November 15th edition of The Guardian, Jeanne Winterson talks about the consoling power of poetry as a T.S. Eliot festival opens in London 

From her article: 

[When] people say that poetry is merely a luxury for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read much at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is….Art lasts because it gives us a language for our inner reality, and that is not a private hieroglyph; it is a connection across time to all those others who have suffered and failed, found happiness, lost it, faced death, ruin, struggled, survived, known the night-hours of inconsolable pain.



 

  • The Boston Globe reported on November 16 that the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts will begin double-bunking inmates to relieve overcrowding caused by mandatory minimum sentencing laws. 

 

  • TED hosts an interesting talk by Philip Zimbardo, leader of the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, on how ordinary people can become monsters and heroes.  

 

 

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4 thoughts on “CLCM Monthly Reader: November

  1. Thanks Jenni. I especially like that reference to T.S. Eliot and the idea that ” a tough life needs a tough language.”

  2. Like Winterson, I’ve turned to Eliot during times of distress and discontentment. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock has been a rock upon which I’ve rested my haunches many a time.

    I’m struck by her explanation that “Art lasts because it gives us a language for our inner reality, and that is not a private hieroglyph; it is a connection across time to all those others who have suffered and failed, found happiness, lost it, faced death, ruin, struggled, survived, known the night-hours of inconsolable pain.”

    I read Eliot, not for moral lessons or inspiration for improvement, but for empathy and consolation. Knowing that another human being struggles with similar issues offers a reassuring glimpse at the universality of human experience. For me, it is this glimpse–and not happily-ever-after tales or self-help manuals–that engenders fortitude in the face of adversity.

    Consequently, I’m left wondering about the importance of positive outcomes in the texts we ask offenders to read. To take up The Bluest Eye once more–would it matter if Cholly Breedlove had lived to see the error of his ways and spent the rest of his life as a religious and repenting figure?

  3. “To take up The Bluest Eye once more–would it matter if Cholly Breedlove had lived to see the error of his ways and spent the rest of his life as a religious and repenting figure?”

    That’s an interesting question Jenni. In one sense, it might change the reader’s understanding of the entire meaning of Cholly’s life –yes?

  4. If there were more pages in the book dedicated to Cholly’s life after the rape, then I agree that many would likely understand his life differently. The fact that Morrison relegates Cholly’s ultimate fate to just a few lines, however, makes me see the journey as more important than the destination in this text. In this context–where we cease to learn the intimate details of his life after the rape occurs–the ways in which he ekes out the rest of his life seems somehow less important than his path there.

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