Race, Criminalization, and Historical Trauma in the United States: Making the Case for a New Justice Framework

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The punitive policies and practices of the United States criminal punishment system have exacerbated social ills ranging from trauma, mental illness, homelessness, unemployment, family dissolution, and substance abuse. It is increasingly viewed as a dehumanizing system that reproduces social exclusion. Social movements like “Black Lives Matter” that galvanized in response to the police killings of unarmed Black men such as Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown are calling for the recognition of our shared humanity. This must involve a reexamination of the role and effects of punishment and an adoption of a correctional system grounded in human rights, as viewed through a case study of the New York prison system with implications for national innovation.

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