Friday, May 27, noon on WHRV FM

Each year, more than half a million American citizens are released from prison and join an ever-growing population of people who live with a felony record. Dr. Reuben Jonathan Miller has spent years serving and studying prisoners, formerly incarcerated people, their families, and their friends — and he has found that those trying to re-enter society face huge obstacles.

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In this interview with Dr. Alan Campbell, Miller discusses topics from his book Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration. Research shows that 95 percent of prisoners, approximately 600,000 per year, will eventually be released, but they face a long list of restrictions that make it difficult to become productive members of society, Miller explains. Many convicted felons face restrictions on the types of jobs they are allowed to have, where they are allowed to live, and which family members they can live with — or even visit. In addition, they receive a list of conditions they must meet that include things like securing employment quickly, attending various types of weekly meetings or training programs, and submitting to weekly drug tests. Many of these are difficult to accomplish if they do not have access to adequate transportation, or if a work schedule doesn’t allow flexibility.

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Dr. Reuben Jonathan Miller. Photo by Jonathan Miller.

“They return to an alternate legal reality,” he says. “What we've done is we've produced a world in which people don't belong, where people have no place in it. And if we're doing this in the name of public safety, this is a bad decision, because precarity leads to crime and violence. In our seeking for safety, I think what we've actually done is legislated a more violent world.”

Miller is an associate professor in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice at the University of Chicago and a research professor with The American Bar Foundation. As a chaplain at the Cook County Jail in Chicago and as a sociologist studying mass incarceration, Miller has spent years studying how racialized and poor people experience law, crime control and social welfare policy. Find him on Twitter.

Listen to the full conversation.