Explaining U.S. Imprisonment examines women in prison, minorities, the historical path to the modern prison, a wide range of contemporary issues, and social influences on prison reform. While focusing on prisons, this one-of-a-kind book is written within the context of the sociology of punishment and covers cutting-edge topics such as detaining immigrants, the War on Terror, and prison in the 21st century.


  • Uses a historical and social framework to place U.S. corrections and imprisonment policies in context
  • Includes first-hand accounts from inmates, as well as primary source documents written by early prison reformers
  • Integrates research on women, men, and minorities throughout, rather than separating each topic into a stand-alone chapter
  • Begins chapters with thought-provoking quotes to set the stage for the content that follows

Explaining U.S. Imprisonment is ideal for use as a supplementary text in undergraduate and graduate courses on corrections, imprisonment, and theories of punishment. It is also appropriate for use in courses on criminal justice, incarceration, minority issues in law, sociology of law, and the study of the modern prison system.

Conclusion: Where to from Here?

Conclusion: Where to from here?

Recourse to the penal apparatus in advanced society is not destiny but a matter of political choices, and these choices must be made in full knowledge of the facts and of their consequences.

—Wacquant, 2001b, p. 409

The infliction of punishment by a state upon its citizens bears the character of a civil war in miniature—it depicts a society engaged in a struggle with itself. And though this may sometimes be necessary, it is never anything other than a necessary evil.

—Garland, 1990, p. 292

The great penal gulag being constructed in the United States has taken liberal democracy to its limits.

—Young, J., 1999, p. 190

At year end 2008, the U.S. incarcerated more than 2.4 million men, women, and children ...

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