"History is written from the standpoint of the victors; the underside — 'the losers' — remains hidden. Prisons were constructed to hide and to separate. Although the realities and failures of the U.S. criminal justice system have been well documented, the myth that punishment is an essential element of justice persists. As we will demonstrate, it persists because prisons serve the power structure — the status quo — as it stands. The answer to the question 'Do prisons work?' changes depending on one's perspective on the purpose prisons are meant to fulfill. If the purpose of prisons is to keep some people down and to deflect attention away from underlying causes, the answer is yes. If the goal, however, is to heal brokenness and build community, the answer is no.

"Although redemption and rehabilitation were embedded in the original intention behind the penitentiary, very little room is left today for captives of the system to change for the better. To be sure, thousands of individuals have done so on their own, overcoming the cruelty and isolation to which they have been subjected. But they are the saints — the strong and courageous few.

"For the most part, the criminal justice system breeds more violence, more racism, deeper hatreds. It makes people less able to participate in the economic system, to function fully on the outside, or to develop healthy relationships. It utterly ignores the needs of survivors of crime. It never even asks what healing or wholeness could look like. Healing cannot occur superficially, as history has shown us again and again. Healing will require us to address the extreme power imbalance that have allowed some people, and one class, to remain at the top at the expense of other races and classes.”