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Seeking Dignity-Based Justice: An Interview With Bruce Western

when we think about what really safe communities look like, they’re not safe because they’re very heavily policed, and the courts are really throwing the book at people who get into trouble and come into serious conflict with the law and hurt other people. Communities are made safe because of a whole web of social relationships that are in the family, at the workplace, in community organizations, and faith organizations. Community life on the street has, what Jane Jacobs described, as “eyes on the streets.” Community residents know their fellow denizens, and all of this creates webs of mutual obligation and informal social control. It regularizes behavior. It provides guardianship, particularly for adolescent boys and young men who tend to be most involved in crime. So, it’s this thick web of social relationships that are characteristic of healthy and flourishing communities. And this is where we want to get to as a matter of public policy. In our response to violence and other crime, we want to make interventions that foster this kind of healthy family and community life. Incarceration doesn’t do that. It’s very disintegrative of social life. It draws people out of communities, puts them in far-flung facilities, strains family relationships, and creates the entire problem of re-entry, which people have to find work and housing.

 

Click here to read the full article by Alysse ElHage for the Institute for Family Studies.