Lily Hodges

We live in a world full of fiction. That is, at least, according to a reporter named Walter Lippmann writing in the 1920s. He coined the term “pseudo-environment” to describe a kind of fiction that people use every day to navigate the nuances of life. The reduced version I’m going with: The stories we tell ourselves make a complex world easier to digest. In seminar, we touched briefly on how the word “fiction” can hold negative connotations when applied to real lives, a thought I agree with. However, instead of debating Lippmann’s theoretical work as a white man of means a century ago, and for the sake of this blog post, I considered the kinds of publics I encounter with my work and how I cross paths with their fictions.

Some folks want to believe that hard work and individual responsibility is the way to social advancement for themselves and their kids. For this public, free education, health care and services for inmates disturbs their fiction.

Some folks want to believe that people who commit crimes are scary, evil or worthless. For this public, treating inmates humanely disturbs their fiction.

Some folks want to believe that Lady Justice wears a blindfold. For this public, interaction with the legal system disturbs their fiction.

Some folks want to believe an education is the way towards a better life, but without the means to pay for it, find themselves working for a job that only requires a GED, such as a correctional officer. For this public, free education for inmates disturbs their fiction.

Some folks want to believe that people who commit crimes are in need of rehabilitation. For this public, a society without prisons disturbs their fiction.

These are just some examples I came up with while thinking of the publics I encounter by engaging the prison industrial complex. They include conservatives and liberal politicians, the mass media, working class folks, rich folks, state government officials, college professors and activists, among others. Through the lens of my Lippmann Lite, each of these publics brings a different perspective on how the world works and where they are situated within in it. Thus, the realm of mass incarceration holds many fictions to navigate.