Violence and Redemption

Violence & Redemption

With 5 percent of the world’s people but 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated, the United States is home to the largest prison population in the world.

A meaningful reduction in the prison population of 2.3 million people can’t happen without addressing those incarcerated for violent offenses. They make up at least 53 percent of the total in state prisons. Is that too many? Are they in for the right reasons? Are they hopeless cases, or can something be done to help reform and rehabilitate them, make them valuable members of society who won’t commit crimes again? Advocates cite three possible approaches to this problem: reforming justice, rehabilitation, and forgiveness.

Violence and Redemption

Solving America’s incarceration problem will require more than releasing nonviolent drug offenders.

TakePart took an in-depth look at efforts being made to address the issue of violent offenders and how they factor into criminal justice reform, rehabilitation programs, and the challenge of forgiveness.

Walking in Forgiveness

Walking in Forgiveness

When Misty Wallace met her attacker it was the beginning of a surprising new relationship. Read what happens when a victim meets her offender.

"The stigma of being a violent criminal has followed me."

More than 700,000 state prisoners are serving time for violent offenses—that’s 53 percent of the state prison population. As calls for criminal justice reform grow, few have dared to touch this issue, instead favoring reforms for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. With the avoidance comes an enormous human and fiscal cost.

When corrections budgets are strained, rehabilitation and educational programs are often the first to go, in spite of ample evidence that such programming reduces the chance that a person will re-offend after release. We talked to two men who each spent more than three decades in prison for second-degree murder about how they got there, their experiences on the inside, and life after incarceration.

Life Inside and Out 3 VIDEOS

The Letter ‘V’

Samuel Hamilton, who served 32 years in prison, and Lorenzo Brooks, who served 30 years, describe the barriers created by being classified as violent felons.

Changing Course Behind Bars

Samuel Hamilton and Lorenzo Brooks describe rehabilitation opportunities in prison, including college courses and mentoring other inmates.

Life After Lockup

Samuel Hamilton and Lorenzo Brooks, who each served more than three decades for second-degree murder, tell of an uphill battle to search for jobs, housing, and stability after leaving prison.
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    The Letter ‘V’
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    Changing Course Behind Bars
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    Life After Lockup

5 Leaders5 Opinions

The only way to tackle mass incarceration is to address the issue of those convicted of violent offenses.

Hover over these leaders to see what they say.

  • A District Attorney

    Our prison population is not the result of overzealous prosecutors. Like it or not, our prisons are filled with people who earned their incarceration through their behavior.

    Joshua Marquis, District Attorney, Astoria, Oregon;
    Board member, National District Attorneys Association

  • A Public Defender

    By ignoring the reality that there is not a level playing field, our society has come to criminalize everything from homelessness to mental illness to poverty.

    Yasmin Cader, A career public defender who has practiced in both the state and federal court systems

  • A Reform Advocate

    Any effort to meaningfully reduce the footprint of America’s sprawling carceral system must include the release of some significant portion of those locked up for violent offenses.

    Glenn Martin, Founder and President, JustLeadership USA;
    Criminal justice advocate who spent six years in New York State prison

  • A Retribution Advocate

    Let the punishment fit the crime. We mouth it, pay homage to it as a central pillar of justice. But do we really mean it.

    Robert Blecker, Criminal Law Professor, New York Law School;
    Author, 'The Death of Punishment'

  • A Restorative Justice Advocate

    To put it most simply: Survivors want us to do what works. And prison doesn’t work.

    Danielle Sered, Director, Common Justice, a program that develops solutions to violence that meet the needs of victims and foster racial equality without relying on incarceration

America’s prison population is the highest in the world and is on track to remain that way. A national conversation about crime and punishment is necessary to decide whether we have a system that works—one in which the punishment fits the crime—or a penal system in need of radical reform.