Ending Mass Incarceration

Bringing Dignity to Life Behind Bars

With few exceptions, American jails and prisons are dehumanizing environments. For incarcerated men and women—95% of whom will return home—the possibility of rehabilitation is undermined by the brutality and monotony of life behind bars. High recidivism rates suggest the model isn’t working. The environments are punishing for staff as well. 

Downsizing prisons and jails is not enough. They must be healthy places to live and work, places that affirm fundamental human rights, and where the possibility for personal transformation is a reality. Getting there requires commitment, imagination, and close partnerships with corrections administrators and others eager for change. Our work includes ending the widespread use of solitary confinement, protecting people from sexual assault, exploring ways to better connect people who are incarcerated with their families,  and expanding access to higher education in prison. It also draws on lessons from countries that take a much less punitive approach to confinement with far better results.

Related Work

Series: Unlocking Potential

Increasing interest in and passion for learning throughout the prison system

Former intern Monnero Guervil interviews Baz Dreisinger for this blog post.  What inspired you to create John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Prison-to-College Pipeline (P2CP) program? How does it differ, if at all, from other college in prison programs? I was volunteering in an educational capacity in prisons. This started be...

Blog Post
  • Monnero Guervil
    Monnero Guervil
  • Baz Dreisinger
    Baz Dreisinger
August 29, 2016
Blog Post

Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo on life after solitary

Regardless of how much time and space I put in between myself and the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in Pelican Bay State Prison, the effects of isolation will always linger. My spirit resists, resiliently, the social pathologies known to “develop in prisoners who struggle to adapt to the rigors” of isolation. The symptoms I cannot resist seem to stem...

Blog Post
  • Danny Murillo
    Danny Murillo
August 01, 2016
Blog Post