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.

Challenging the Culture of Control?
Challenging the culture of control?

… imprisonment is not any longer, if ever it was, a rational response to high levels of crime. Rather, our mass incarceration policy is an historical inheritance, bequeathed to us by wave after wave of crime-fighting at the state and the federal level over the past 35 years. This policy response … has now become counter-productive.

—Loury, 2007, p. 2

Locking up criminals for longer periods of time has proven one of America's most effective anticrime strategies.

—Lehrer, 2000, p. 2

After having passed my entire adult life inside, I am convinced that these places of confinement only condition people to fail.

—Santos, 2006, p. 287

As we near the close of the first decade of the 21st century, opinions on the ...

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