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.

Penal Reform and Prison Science: Engineering Order and Building America

Penal reform and prison science: Engineering order and building America

[N]o practically reformative prison system prevails; much doubt of the possibility of such a system exists, and the importance of reforming prisoners seems undervalued.

—Brockway, 1874, p. 144

Science… tells us that criminals can no longer be branded as willful sinners possessed of the devil, but classes them as sick individuals who may no more be blamed for their acts than the man who limps because of a broken ankle.

—Beier, 1931, p. 9

The first step in treating any disease is diagnosis. So we try to find out something about the personality of the prisoner, about his family and home surroundings, his school record, work history, social relationships, medical ...

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