Beyond Incarceration

What Lies Ahead? The Antiprison Movement Contemplates the Future

The approach promises a more effective and humane system--after all, points out Clear, communities that suffer from high crime are also populated by people whose relatives are now being shipped upstate and warehoused. But the community-justice movement also puts antiprison local advocates in an unusual position--as potential jailers. As Clear puts it, "If you're going to lock people up, lock them up in their communities. They're close to their families, and it's easier to transition them back into the neighborhood." But, adds Clear, community justice would "involve a whole range of things that you do that you call justice"--including neighborhood-led policing, community courts, drug treatment, day reporting centers, jobs programs, and so on.

The point is to reinvent the criminal-justice system as a network of community institutions. And Clear says the movement is "exploding" across America. "In Vermont, a large number of sentences are doled out by community groups. In three counties in Oregon, the state gives back to the county an amount equal to the money that would have been spent on imprisonment, and that money is put into infrastructure."

Here in New York, "crime-ridden communities are just beginning to have a voice in how we spend our criminal-justice dollar," says Cadora. Later this year a community-justice center will open in Red Hook. Meanwhile, a small storefront operation called La Bodega de la Familia on the Lower East Side is trying to demonstrate how a community-based approach to drugs and crime might work here. The center works with the families of addicts, not just addicts themselves, and is molded to fit Loisaida and nowhere else. It's a kind of program that Rufino, for one, wishes had been around when he was growing up. Three years after Rufino got clean, his older brother was deported to the Dominican Republic for selling. Rufino hasn't seen him since.

Research: Maura Henniger

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