The United States, alone, locks up a quarter of the world's incarcerated people. And yet apart from clichés--paying a debt to society; you do the crime, you do the time—there is little sense collectively in America what constitutes retribution or atonement. We don't actually know why we punish. Ben Austen's exploration offers a behind-the-scenes look at the process of parole. Told through the portraits of two men imprisoned for murder, and the parole board that holds their freedom in the balance, Austen forces us to reckon with some of the most profound questions underlying the country's values around crime and punishment. What must someone who commits a terrible act do to get a second chance? What does incarceration seek to accomplish?
It’s clear that Austen sees plenty wrong with our system of corrections, but he doesn’t whine with advocacy. His style is informative with little sap, and he manages to make sympathetic characters out of violent men ... Austen bounces around, weaving...stories through chapters that zoom out and capture just about every facet of the prison system and its failures.
A critical contribution to discussions of how to reform American criminal justice, illuminating how we might change the process of giving people second chances and re-envision the very purpose of our carceral system ... Construct[ed] around intimate portraits ... The structure makes for an elliptical and sometimes disorienting timeline, returning to key time periods, like the 1970s, again and again. Structural qualms aside, Correction provides a revelatory lens for examining mass incarceration.
Despite a few clunky passages, Austen argues persuasively that improving the carceral system must involve shifting emphasis from 'vengeance and permanent punishment' to genuine rehabilitation and the chance for the incarcerated to lead productive lives after serving their time. A cleareyed, compassionate, urgent appeal for prison reform.