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Prison Reforms Can Actually Increase Size and Scope of Incarceration

Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law discuss electronic monitoring, prison reform and the growing awareness of abolition.

Demonstrators and family protest the death of Jemal Floyd at the hands of prison guards in front of the Brooklyn Detention Center in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City on June 26, 2020.

Brian Sonenstein and Kim Wilson welcome back Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law to discuss their new book, Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms, on the Beyond Prisons podcast.

The book provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking critical analysis of popular reforms to policing and incarceration, such as electronic monitoring, diversion courts, so-called sex worker rescue programs, and a lot more. Importantly, it explores not only how these reforms fail to promote safety, but how they actually increase the size and scope of policing and incarceration.

Our wide-ranging conversation touches on how electronic monitoring denies people the ability to do the basic things they need to do to live, and shifts the costs of incarceration away from the government and onto the individual and their family, harming those important relationships in a multitude of ways.

We talk about the release of this book at a time of heightened skepticism around reform projects and a growing popular awareness of abolition.

We also discuss why community policing is anti-community, and why it’s important to remember that we don’t need a replacement response for everything for which people are policed and imprisoned; in some cases, it would be better to do nothing instead.

This episode is dedicated to Maya’s sister, Keeley Schenwar, who passed away in February.

Maya Schenwar is the editor-in-chief of Truthout. She is co-author of Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms, as well as the author of Locked Down, Locked Out, and the co-editor of Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? She lives in Chicago with her partner and toddler.

You can find Maya’s work at as well as,

Follow her on Twitter @mayaschenwar and Facebook.

Victoria Law is a freelance journalist who focuses on the intersections of incarceration, gender, and resistance. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women and regularly covers prison issues for Truthout and other outlets. Her latest book, Prison by Any Other Name, co-written with Maya Schenwar, critically examines proposed “alternatives” to incarceration and explores creative and far-reaching solutions to truly end mass incarceration.

You can find more of Victoria’s work on her website,

Follow her on Twitter @LVikkiml

Episode Resources & Notes

Keeley Schenwar’s Poem

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Created and hosted by Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein

Edited by Ellis Maxwell

Website & volunteers managed by Victoria Nam

Theme music by Jared Ware

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