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: Dispatches from T.R.U.E.

Dream Chasers

Former TRUE mentee reflects on life behind and beyond bars

I’ve never seen a correctional officer who loved coming to work and interacting with incarcerated people. That’s different—I don’t care what anybody says. That alone speaks volumes about his character; In general population, it always seemed dull and full of bad energy. A lot of the times the officers came off miserable and took their frustrations ...

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  • Shyquinn Dix
    Shyquinn Dix
November 23, 2018
Blog Post

“I Thank God I’m Not in an American Prison”

As Young Germans Tell Their Own Incarceration Stories, Comparisons Arise

Yusef spoke about the difficulty of serving out his sentence – and about his commitment to making the most of the time spent at Hahnöfersand: “I’m serving four-and-a-half years. That may not sound like a long time to people familiar with the US system, but for me, it is too much. It is very hard. I left my family on the outside, and I have a young ...

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  • Ryan Shanahan
    Ryan Shanahan
  • Kindred Motes
    Kindred Motes
October 17, 2018
Blog Post

Reimagining American Prisons Isn’t a Pipedream

After the Holocaust, Germany Reimagined Theirs

Connecticut’s partnership with Vera on the T.R.U.E. unit, and the early successes demonstrated there, have led to similar units in Massachusetts and South Carolina. Seeing these and other partnerships come from the initial trip, Vera staff knew how important the experience was for shaping plans to move beyond the low-hanging fruit of incremental re...

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  • Kindred Motes
    Kindred Motes
October 14, 2018
Blog Post