Bruce Western | Overcoming America’s cycle of poverty and incarceration

By Bruce Western

In times and in communities in which incarceration has become pervasive, relations between local residents and state officials can be contentious. And state institutions come to lack legitimacy.

The institutions lack legitimacy because their stated objectives of order and safety are belied by the disorder and violence they bring to community life.

Institutions that lack legitimacy are brittle, much weaker than they appear. By contrast, the communities that surround these institutions reveal multiple points of resilience.

In truth, the process of policymaking is not inexorably punitive. Human agency can rise in the face of daunting obstacles.

The great test for reimagining justice is not so much envisioning what the alternative might be. The real test is whether the many points of resistance can be gathered together to bring down the brittle scaffolding of blame and state violence that perpetuate America’s cycle of poverty and incarceration.

Bernard Harcourt