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The RoundTable

Barred from Life: The Criminal “Justice” System

Fall 2008


Major Articles

  • Search for Meaning in a Federal Prison – Tina Busch-Nema
  • The U.S. System of Punishment: A Snowballing of Fear, Racism, and Greed – Jenny Truax
  • Throwing Away the Prison Keys and Opening Doors to Alternatives – Jamala Rogers
  • Execute Justice not People – Colleen Cunningham
  • Barred from Life After Prison? Mary Ann McGivern

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Regular Features

  • Front cover: alternatives2prison.ik.com
  • Centerfold: Expresions Beyond Bars- Beth Buchek & Megan Heeney
  • Why This Issue – Timmy Cosentino
  • From Karen House – Annjie Schiefelbein
  • From Kabat House – Sarah Sunseri
  • The Works of Resistance – Megan Heeney

Why This Issue:

We walk together towards a large gate. On either side of

the gate are imposing walls and even larger towers. At the top

of each wall are rows of nasty looking razor wire, and masked

guards stand at attention with very big guns. We try to see

beyond the barrier in front of us to catch a glimpse of life on

the other side, but the gate blocks all vision. On the door is a

sign that says...


"Stop where you are. Do not go any further.

Going beyond this point will not be tolerated;

beyond here is a world of deprivation, violence

and filth. Turn back now!"


Our guide though knows another way, and whispers to

us, “This is not the only way. Have hope there is another

way. Now that we have seen this hell let us go together to a

different place, a place where there is still hope.”

Please forgive my dramatic literary musing but as I think

about our issue, and look at the prison-industrial complex, I

can’t help but think in such stark visions of hope and despair.

We are looking and talking about prisons, and the why is

very simple. We wrote this issue, because when we stopped

and honestly looked at prisons and ourselves we couldn’t

take the despair and pain anymore and needed to try and

spread hope and a different way. We wrote this issue to say

that there is another way, through all the bars, rules, pain and

despair there is another way of hope and compassion. We

wrote this issue because we saw the statistics of how many

people were in the prison-industrial system, and we couldn’t

ignore it anymore. We wrote this issue because even after

putting aside the philosophical reasoning and the unjust

statistics we couldn’t ignore the glaring reality of the prison

system and its affect on our guests, neighbors, and friends.

The prison-industrial complex and criminal justice system that

it supports are broken, flawed to its core. We wrote this issue

to show that there is another way other than “locking them

up.” We wrote this issue because we still believe that people

can improve.


In this issue, Jenny Truax takes a good hard look at the

state of the prison-industrial system. While Mary Ann

McGivern opens us up to what it is like trying to adjust after

prison time. Jamala Roger shows us a different way in an

article on alternatives to prison and restorative justice. In

addition, Teka Childress and Tina Busch Nema offer personal

stories to remind us that these really are our brothers and

sisters behind bars. Colleen Cunningham talks to us about

the harsh reality of the final judgment of our criminal system,

the death penalty. In our Karen House tradition, we also want

to talk about things closer to home, and to that point Megan

Heeney shows us resistance in the Catholic Worker movement.

While Annjie Schiefelbein and Sarah Sunseri tell us

how Karen House and Kabat House are doing.


As I said before, the reason for this issue was simple,

but the reality of the situation is not. The reality of the prison

industrial system puts on a nice front as a “necessity for

society” but the truth of the system is hidden away, not

talked about, and discounted. Please read this issue to learn

more about the reality, and consider joining us in working to

change it.

- Timmy Cosentino



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