“Maybe the time has come to work towards the prevention of disorderand catastrophe, and not merely towards their control.” —Giorgio Agamben
When it comes to issues of public safety, we are connected by a shared misunderstanding of our own potential. Our paradigm is focused so much on policing and incapacitating that it is hard for us to imagine public safety methods that guide and strengthen community capacity for peacemaking. We dedicate our resources to strategically removing the people that the criminal justice system deems dan-gerous, rather than strategically addressing the conditions that lay the foundation for dangerous behavior. As a result, we magnify the challenges for the future and for those who will live it. Phenomena like second- and third-generation incarceration, where the paths of young children are shaped by their parent or loved one’s imprisonment, point towards the implications of approaches to security rooted in control and removal. We are a society that, despite extraordinary resources, rarely acts out of consideration for those who will inherit the world we leave be-hind. Given our disdain for those who are next to come, we must seriously reconsider our ability to recognize appropriate paths towards safety and security.
From the widespread criminalization of young people of color, to the growing blue-light police camera infrastructure, the terms and practices of securing “public safety” have profound consequences for daily life in Chicago. It is far from clear whether these consequences, felt most intensely in Black and Latino neighborhoods, actually make the “public” any safer. In this section’s Community Justice and Philanthropy discussions, Deborah Harrington and Deborah Bennett both ask us, “Where is the outrage?” The awareness and emotional commitment they call for can serve as a basis for hope and for decisive change. Shifting our paradigm and uprooting conflict demands both. Such a shift requires reinvesting our resources to combat addiction, provide nurturing influences, and develop meaningful job op-portunities outside the illegal economy. It also requires that we look at the contemporary moment in new ways.
Never before in human history has a society viewed so many of its own members as criminals. Our crime rates do not account for all the violence that occurs in prison, reflecting the fact that prison is where our society sends the people whose issues it refuse to deal with and whose humanity we no longer recognize. Whether we are on the receiving end of wrongdoing, the giving end, or both, the need for healing and recovery is real. Today we must wonder, how is our mental health affected by the everyday practices of de-humanization necessary to justify mass incarceration? Rather than pursue such difficult questions, we continue to use the institutions of the criminal justice system as places to store the home-less, the jobless, and the people living with acute mental illness. Cook County Jail is not only one of the most violent places in the country, it is also a warehouse for those without homes and one of the country’s largest providers of psychiatric care.* Efforts like those of the Developing Justice Coalition, highlighted in this section, call on us to rethink how we pursue safety and at whose expense. As this coalition asserts, real change requires much more than simply rewriting laws, it means chang-ing the ways we view, work with, and care for one another. *
*Crime and Justice Index. Page 22
Keywords —Community Justice —Police Torture —Restorative Justice
Classroom Questions —How do people handle difficult conflicts without relying on courts or the police? —What are some alternatives to incarceration? —How does second-generation incarceration impact urban communities? What can we do about it?