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Over half a million people are released from prison each year. They join a staggering twenty million Americans who live with a felony record. They return to a new world, where over 44,000 laws and policies dictate where they may go, with whom they may live and how they spend their time. This is mass incarceration in America, where 40 percent of the people we lock are way are black, 84 percent are poor, and half have no income at all. Where our primary response to people who cause harm is to exclude them. And the U.S. is not alone. Scholars have warned us about mass supervision—the formal and informal sanctions that target people we’ve labeled criminal for years after their release. 

Professor Reuben Jonathan Miller was confronted by these brute facts as a chaplain at the Cook County Jail in Chicago during the height of mass incarceration, as the son and brother of formerly incarcerated men and as a sociologist studying mass incarceration’s afterlife. Miller has spent a career walking alongside people we've learned to be afraid of and the families who suffer with them.  His work reveals a simple, if overlooked, truth: mass incarceration has an afterlife, and that afterlife is its own form of prison. It has changed the social life of the city and altered the contours of democracy one (almost always) poor black family at a time.

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