book review: until we reckon by danielle sered14 Jan 2023
What are the main ideas?
- “mostly violence is not just a matter of individual pathology—it is created.”
- the forces that create it are poverty, inequity, lack of opportunity, shame and isolation, and violence itself.
- “incarceration not only fails to interrupt these drivers—it intensifies them.”
- “if incarceration worked to secure safety, we would be the safest nation in all of human history.”
- “the core national violence prevention strategy relies on a tool [prison] that has as its basis the central drivers of violence.”
- when we focus abolition and reform work on nonviolent offenders, “…we trim the edges of the tree while we inadvertently water its roots. it appears smaller for a moment, but it grows back quickly and stronger.”
- “displacing our current approach to violence will require that we foster new ways to support those who are harmed by violence; develop and implement new strategies to address those who commit it; and change our story about who survives violence, who commits it, and what it will take to end it so that we can make room for new solutions.”
- the practice of incarceration often uses the narrative that incarceration is what survivors want. but incarceration rarely addresses the things survivors of violence actually want.
- if we want to be truly responsible to survivors we might begin to ask different questions: “who do we answer to and show? who is being hurt? whose lives are at stake? what do they need to heal and be safe? have we asked them what they want? what do they say when we do?”
- there are 4 principles to violence we should adopt. “our responses to violence should be survivor-centered, accountability-based, safety-driven, and racially equitable.”
- in communities where violence is common, removing a few actors from the situation can intensify the violence via backlash and fueled by patriarchal notions of honor, protectiveness, shame, and fear.
- more than imprisonment of harmers, survivors want to be heard, to feel safe, to understand why, and to make sure their harmer doens’t (or can’t) cause that type of harm/violence anymore. these elements can often lead to or at least support healing for the survivors.
- survivor stories are wide-ranging, varied, and any attempt to flatten them into a monolithic stance is dishonest.
- people who commit violence are almost always victims of former violence.
- real accountability can support both survivors and those who commit violence. it can support survivors by giving them what they need to heal and move on. it can support those who commit violence by giving them a pathway back into right relationship with their community and society.
- we have to learn how to distinguish between punishment and accountability.
- accountability from those who commit violence requires these five key elements: “(1) acknowledging responsibility for one’s actions; (2) acknowledging the impact of one’s actions on others; (3) expressing genuine remorse; (4) taking actions to repair the harm to the degree possible, and guided when feasible by the people harmed, or “doing sorry”, and (5) no longer committing similar harm.”
If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be?
practice the five elements of accountability myself. and then move towards using them the spaces in which i move.
How would I describe the book to a friend? i can’t believe i hadn’t read this book sooner. thanks to nadav for recommending it to our abolition book group (hi chelsea!). i also can’t believe it was written so recently! this is a killer text and just really gets right down into the weeds fast. for someone who doesn’t (as far as i can see) outright consider themself an abolitionist, this book has given me the best contemporary case for why prisons literally don’t work to create safety. this book has an excellently readable mix of theory, tactic, and story/example. it, ironically, pulls no punches. i will be recommending this to everyone who is even curious about prison abolition.
reminder: book review structure
words / writing / post-processing
649w / 46min / 8min