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Re-Thinking Prisons and Incarceration with Truthout Editor Maya Schenwar

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Maya Schenwar, editor-in-chief of, talks about her new book about America’s prisons, Locked Down, Locked Out.

Subtitled Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better, Schenwar’s book exposes the pain and costs of incarceration, and not just on the offender. Her younger sister, Kayla, went to juvenile detention, county jail, and state prison; Schenwar shares Kayla’s story, and the impact of her imprisonment on her family, including giving birth to daughter Angelica while in prison.

We talk about the recent changes in attitudes and policies, from Eric Holder’s move to re-sentence nonviolent drug offenders to the recent passage of Prop. 47 in California, which redefined felonies in a way that will lead to release of thousands of prisoners. We note that the views of politicians have not moderated along with their voters, and Schenwar informs us that the prison population actually increased slightly last year. She urges you to become a prisoner pen-pal, and she explains the idea of “decarceration” to shrink the prison industry. We also talk about the resources for activists listed in the appendix of her book.