...her insertion of herself into the narrative as a self-critical expert-naïf is distracting and occasionally overwrought, as when she writes sentiments like, 'I find my own cluelessness deeply moving.' The universality of human suffering, the dehumanization of incarceration and the ineffectual senselessness of punishment are confirmed and reconfirmed in these prison encounters ... Her maternal turmoil when her students are denied parole, rearrested, shot, deprived of opportunity or go missing, as well as her teacherly pride in their successes, is the genuine heart of the story.
The great gift of Incarceration Nations is that, by introducing a wide range of approaches to crime, punishment and questions of justice in diverse countries it forces us to face the reality that American-style punishment has been chosen. It is not normal, natural or inevitable ... Anyone who is looking for detailed, nuanced descriptions of the various justice systems will be disappointed. The book reads much like a rambling, yet frequently insightful diary entry as she roams the globe ... I appreciated the range of stories and experiences shared, yet I could not help but worry that difficult issues had been glossed over.
Incarceration Nations is essentially a mash-up: part memoir and part travelogue of Dreisinger’s tour through the world’s prisons, from Africa to Thailand to Australia. There’s a smattering of historical and sociological perspective, but that’s not really Dreisinger’s point. She wants the reader to focus on the shared humanity of the people she meets. The fact that the book is somewhat of a potpourri of forms reflects Dreisinger’s intentions and the deep personal conflict at the center of the book. It comes across as honest and genuine, if not entirely satisfying as a pointed argument ... I can understand why Dreisinger framed the book the way she does, a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for the prison sector. The form allows her to acknowledge all of the contradictions in her posture.