Criminal justice reformer Jerome G. Miller passes away

Jerry Miller, known for closing Massachusetts's prisons for kids in 1972 and for book "Search and Destroy: African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System" dies at age 83.

by Peter Wagner, August 17, 2015

On August 7, Dr. Jerome G. Miller, a visionary in juvenile justice reform, passed away at the age of 83. Jerry Miller is most famous for having closed Massachusetts’ prisons for children in 1972. Hired by Republican Governor Sargent to reform the brutal, inhumane and ineffective “reform schools”, Miller soon discovered that the only option was to close the facilities and to transfer the children to far less restrictive custody, including sending them home. The “Massachusetts Experiment”, as it came to be known, later became a model for reform in other states and is documented in his memoir Last One Over the Wall: The Massachusetts Experiment in Closing Reform Schools.

Jerry Miller’s work first came to my attention when I discovered his second book, Search and Destroy: African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System. The book directly confronted the critical question: Does the evidence prove that the criminal justice system is deliberately racist? Published in 1996, the book is quite dated now, but Search and Destroy played a key role in arguing that the criminal justice system needed to be viewed with a racial justice lens, back when racial disparities were not widely accepted as a defining characteristic of our justice system.

Read other obituaries of Jerome G. Miller:

Peter Wagner is Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative. (Other articles | Full bio | Contact)

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  • Feb 21, 2019:
    Volunteer Attorney Stephen Raher will be presenting his paper “The Company Store and the Literally Captive Market: Consumer Law in Prisons and Jails” at the Consumer Law Conference at Berkeley Law School. The paper will be presented and discussed at 4:00pm.

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