PIC summary for Sarah, Ava, and Courtney

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The Prison Industrial Complex immediately sparked our groups attention as a feminist, and all around human issue. Coming from a psychological schooling background, I found the phenomenon of caging criminals up together in hopes of later rehabilitating them into society fascinating. In Wally Lamb's book, "Couldn't Keep it to Myself", life in prison was discussed, examined, and then published. It was a first hand account of how women ended up in prison, and what it was like during and sometimes after. Our group leaned towards restorative justice, because of a personal impact it had on one of us. Rather than separating the victim, community, and offender, restorative justice engages them all in finding a plausible solution. Since forcing criminal offenders into cages like wild animals seemed unsatifying to us, we decided to research restorative justice.

According to Howard Zehr, one of the founders of the modern restorative justice movement, "restorative justice is an acknowledgement of the Western criminal justice system's "limits and failures" and is often part of the response to the belief that "the process of justice deepens societal wounds and conflicts rather than contributing to healing or peace" (3).

As part of a way to address some of the issues and frustrations that only seem perpetuated by the Western system of punishment and incarceration, there has been successful implementation of restorative justice principles locally and internationally. As Sarah pointed out in the local importance/impact post, the principles can be applied to a minor indiscretion, like underage drinking, or other larger crimes. In this instance, instead of being 'punished' for minor consumption, she was given the productive task of creating a transfer student club that served a larger purpose and community.

Taken to a much larger scale, New Zealand in 1989 "made restorative justice the hub of its entire juvenile justice system" and has done so successfully. Also, "building upon the experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, efforts are being made to apply a restorative justice framework to situations of mass violence" (4). The Prison Industrial Complex is a relatively new phenomenon, and has begun running an immense scale. However, entire nations are beginning to resist the PIC system and finding alternative methods of justice, which is promising for all.


• Crime is a violation of the law and the state vs. crime is a violation of people and relationships.
• Violations create guilt vs. violations create obligations.
• Justice requires the state to determine blame (guilt) and impose pain (punishment) vs. justice involves victims, offenders, and community members in an effort to put things right.

CENTRAL FOCUS: offenders getting what they deserve vs. victim needs and offender responsibility for repairing harm.


Criminal Justice: What laws have been broken? Who did it? What do they deserve?

Restorative Justice: Who has been hurt? What are their needs? Whose obligations and responsibilities are these? Who has a stake in this situation? What is the process that can involve the stakeholders in finding a solution?

(All found on page 21 of Zehr's book)

Those alternative approaches to justice can and are found and implemented throughout the world. They serve to inspire us to imagine justice differently. Zehr cautions us that "true justice emerges from conversation and takes into account the local needs and traditions" and that we should be wary of a "top-down approach". Rather than having a system that relies on a higher power passing on judgment and punishment; there should be a system of collaboration between offenders, victims, and community. "Restorative justice requires us to change not jut our lenses, but our questions". Lastly, "above all, restorative justice is an invitation to join in conversation so that we may support and learn from each other. It is a reminder that all of us are indeed interconnected" (63).

Awareness of existing alternatives to modern PIC standard operations offers some hope, and perhaps one of the most radical accepted responses offered within the system. The United States has yet to implement wide spread initiative expanding restorative justice principles. Whether or not the perpetual cyclic criminalization largely of societal debris and people of poverty continues to make industry profits and how we respond as a society is up to us. Feminist? I think so... humanizing criminal bodies that have been/ are/ will be incarcerated is necessary for us to see the true inhumanity and deeper societal ills perpetuated by our modern PIC.

Is restorative justice a feminist oriented practice/philosophy? Can it be 'feminist' if it is about all criminals being afforded more humanity? Even possibly violent criminals, rapists, and murders? Where is the line for a 'feminist' response and articulation of restorative justice's efforts? Can its objectives actually counter feminist values?


  1. This is a great summary. To ensure that it doesn't get overlooked, could you file it under the sub-category PIC (in the category Tracking the Issues)?

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This page contains a single entry by mainz006 published on April 27, 2010 11:33 PM.

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