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.

An Era of Uncertainty: Riots, Reform, and Repression

An era of uncertainty: Riots, reform, and repression

To put a person behind walls and not change him is to win a battle and lose a war.

—Chief Justice Earl Warren, quoted in Levinson, 1974, p. 171

To position the “demands” of convicted felons in a place of equal dignity with legitimate aspirations of law-abiding American citizens … represents not simply an assault on human sensibility, but an insult to reason.

—Vice President Spiro Agnew, 1971, p. 43

No longer do black prisoners play the sycophant's game of “pleasing the powers,”…they are in tune with contemporary social and political scenes in the free world.

—former prisoner Clifford Rollins in Fraser, 1971, p. 49

The social transformations inspired by the civil rights activism of the ...

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