A Welcome Turn to Violence

By Joseph Margulies, Verdict | May 14, 2019

Stoneleigh Fellow Danielle Sered and her book, Until We Reckon, are featured in an article on the issues at the root of mass incarceration.

For many years, attempts at criminal justice reform in this country have focused on precisely the wrong problem. Under the benevolent but misguided influence of works like The New Jim Crow, a myth has taken hold that American prisons are chock full of low-level, non-violent drug offenders, who have been imprisoned for mere possession. I and many others have tried very hard to debunk this myth by pointing out, again and again, that we almost never send such folks to prison…

Like Mauer, [Danielle] Sered has been on the frontlines of criminal justice policy for many years. She is the Executive Director of Brooklyn-based Common Justice, which provides an alternative to the traditional criminal model for violent crime. Rooted in restorative justice principles, Common Justice recognizes that violence, in its origin, reach, and impact, is far too complex for the narrow straitjacket of the adversarial process, which turns a blind eye to complexity in order to create a manageable but unsatisfying ritual. Common Justice embraces the complexity that criminal procedure eschews, and uses restorative justice circles to achieve accountability and healing—for the victim, the offender, and the community of which they are a part. Of the ideas discussed in this essay, Sered’s are undoubtedly the most radical, but only because they depart so thoroughly from conventional approaches. Common Justice takes a transformative approach that has the potential to alter the very landscape of criminal justice, if it is given space to grow. And like Mauer, Sered recently distilled her thinking into a new book, Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair.

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