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Unsettling the Discourse of Punishment? Competing Narratives of Reentry and the Possibilities for Change

NCJ Number
Punishment & Society Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2012 Pages: 29-50
Sara Steen; Traci Lacock; Shelby McKinzey
Date Published
January 2012
22 pages
This article examines whether reentry has opened up the discourse of punishment.
In academic and policy circles, there is widespread optimism about the ability of reentry to change the terms of the punishment debate. In this article, the authors assess the impact of the reentry concept on discourse and reform in Colorado through analysis of the recent work of the Colorado Criminal and Juvenile Justice Commission. The authors identify two distinct reentry narratives, which they call the reintegration and recidivism reduction narratives. The reintegration narrative challenges dominant assumptions about punishment in ways consistent with the rehabilitation model, while the recidivism reduction narrative stays close to the retributive model. While the reintegration narrative was clearly present in the Colorado conversation about reform, most of the policy recommendations put forth were driven by the recidivism reduction narrative, in large part due to concerns about potential public perceptions of the Commission's work. The authors conclude that reentry has not only failed to change the discourse in any significant way, it has also served to further entrench the retributive framework of punishment. (Published Abstract)