Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Gerald P. Lopez


The most influential publication on how to design and implement comprehensive and effective reentry programs is the 2005 REPORT OF THE REENTRY POLICY COUNCIL, produced by the bipartisan Council of State Governments (CSG). Triggered by the disturbingly high price of the reigning criminal justice system, and aiming to reduce costs and enhance safety, the REPORT manages both to champion an ambitious approach and to doom its chances of success. Perhaps this effect can be described as predictable and even intentional, especially given the overlapping interests of the elected and appointed officials (and the staffers and collaborators) who comprise CSG. But a deeper contradiction emerges. The REPORT reveals, on close inspection, utopian aspirations undermined by deep allegiance to biases that strengthen targeted mass incarceration and social control. But matters are more contorted, still. Even if the Reentry Policy Council's grandest ambitions for reentry were realized, mainstream reformers would still barely reduce the size and the make-up of mass incarceration in the United States. And they would rarely, if ever, dispute the convictions that drive the reigning criminal justice system. The kicker turns out to be how many in the United States acquiesce in CSG's approach, either never challenging its ideologically tilted predispositions, or routinely offering lavish praise for its bold and comprehensive vision. CSG's REENTRY POLICY COUNCIL'S REPORT promulgates a fanatically technocratic vision of-and preoccupation with-reentry that diverts attention from dramatically reducing targeted mass incarceration and social control. For anyone with at all significant doubts about the brutal inequalities of this nation's criminal justice system, the REPORT and all those who created, pay homage, and fail to challenge it represent what we must overcome. Otherwise we cannot abolish, as we must, targeted mass incarceration and social control.

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