Prisons intersect with violence in multiple ways. In addition to holding people convicted of violent harms while also inflicting violence on those inside (including staff), they enact violence on the basic ability to be human by continually severing the kinds of personal relationships that define what it means to be human, such as through solitary confinement and the severe limitations placed by prisons on personal relationships between prisoners and people on the outside. This article questions the distinction between “violent offenders” and “nonviolent offenders,” suggests that the entire criminal legal system itself enacts exorbitant violence, and asks how people leaving prison are supposed to be able to recover their humanity by relearning how to form meaningful and committed relationships, after living for years in a place that denies them that right.

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