Don Franzen Interviews Baz Dreisinger about “Incarceration Nations”

June 8, 2016

The United States stands by itself among developed nations as the foremost incarcerator of its citizenry. With more than two million people behind bars, America has more prisoners than another other nation, including China, a country with four times its population [see here and here]. What is increasingly being recognized as a “humanitarian crisis” in the U.S. justice system prompted author and educator Baz Dreisinger to embark on a worldwide odyssey visiting diverse penal systems. The resulting book, Incarceration Nations (reviewed in LARB here), documents her investigation of prison systems in countries ranging from Africa to Thailand to Australia and Norway. Notably, she omitted the United States, choosing instead to take instruction from the efforts of other nations. Fundamentally, she explores the questions at the heart of any criminal justice system: Why do we incarcerate? To punish? To rehabilitate? To deter? To redress past wrongs? Or, simply, to do justice? I was able to interview Ms. Dreisinger in Los Angeles recently on the occasion of her book tour for Incarceration Nations.