Prisons

Incarceration Comics

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Marc Mauer's 1999 book Race to Incarcerate is one of the most widely cited critiques of the trend toward mass incarceration. Now Sabrina Jones, a contributor to the anti-authoritarian comic book World War 3 Illustrated, has turned the text into a striking graphic novel.

Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling (New Press) hits Mauer's key points: how prisons were invented by reformers but quickly became centers of abuse; why it's hard to credit the tough-on-crime policies of the 1970s with an actual reduction in crime; how incarceration rips small-time offenders from the social networks that might have steered them away from violence; how punishment falls hardest on the poor and dark-skinned.

Mauer sometimes falls into the liberal's habit of proposing top-down social programs as an alternative to the top-down penal state. But he also criticizes his own alleged allies, skewering Democrats for their role in the prison build-up. And Jones' grim yet lively art accentuates every argument.