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Inferno : an anatomy of American punishment / Robert A. Ferguson
Call Number: Circulating Collection K5103 .F47 2014
Publication Date: 2014
America's criminal justice system is broken. The United States punishes at a higher per capita rate than any other country in the world. In the last twenty years, incarceration rates have risen 500 percent. Sentences are harsh, prisons are overcrowded, life inside is dangerous, and rehabilitation programs are ineffective. Police and prosecutors operate in the dark shadows of the legal process--sometimes resigning themselves to the status quo, sometimes turning a profit from it. The courts define punishment as "time served," but that hardly begins to explain the suffering of prisoners. Looking not only to court records but to works of philosophy, history, and literature for illumination, Robert Ferguson, a distinguished law professor, diagnoses all parts of a now massive, out-of-control punishment regime. He reveals the veiled pleasure behind the impulse to punish (which confuses our thinking about the purpose of punishment), explains why over time all punishment regimes impose greater levels of punishment than originally intended, and traces a disturbing gap between our ability to quantify pain and the precision with which penalties are handed down. Ferguson turns the spotlight from the debate over legal issues to the real plight of prisoners, addressing not law professionals but the American people. Do we want our prisons to be this way? Or are we unaware, or confused, or indifferent, or misinformed about what is happening? Acknowledging the suffering of prisoners and understanding what punishers do when they punish are the first steps toward a better, more just system.
Newjack : guarding Sing Sing by
Call Number: Circulating Collection HV9475 .N72 S563 2000
Publication Date: 2000
Ted Conover, the intrepid author of Coyotes, about the world of illegal Mexican immigrants, spent a year as a prison guard at Sing Sing.Newjack, his account of that experience, is a milestone in American journalism: a book that casts new and unexpected light on this nation's prison crisis and sets a new standard for courageous, in-depth reporting. At the infamous Sing Sing, once a model prison but now New York State's most troubled maximum-security facility, Conover goes to work as a gallery officer, working shifts in which he alone must supervise scores of violent inner-city felons. He soon learns the impossibility of doing his job by the book. What should he do when he feels the hair-raising tingle that tells him a fight is about to break out? When he loses a key in a tussle? When a prisoner punches him in the head? Little by little, he learns to walk the fine line between leniency and tyranny that distinguishes a good guard. Along the way, we meet a cast of characters that includes a tough but appealing supervisor named Mama Crad; a range of mentally ill prisoners, or "bugs"; some of the jail's more flamboyant transvestites; and a philosophical, charismatic inmate who points out to Conover that the United States is building new prisons for future felons who are now only four and five years old. Conover also gives us a history of Sing Sing (it was built by inmates, and for decades was the nation's capital of capital punishment) in a chapter that serves as a brilliant short course in America's penal system. With empathy and insight, Newjacktells the story of a harsh, hidden world and dramatizes the conflict between the necessity to isolate criminals and the dehumanization of guards as well as inmates that almost inevitably takes place behind bars.
Locked in : the true causes of mass incarceration -- and how to achieve real reform / John Pfaff
Call Number: Circulating Collection HV9471 .P449 2017
Publication Date: 2017
A groundbreaking reassessment of the American prison system, challenging the widely accepted explanations for our exploding incarceration rates In Locked In, John Pfaff argues that the factors most commonly cited to explain mass incarceration -- the failed War on Drugs, draconian sentencing laws, an increasing reliance on private prisons -- tell us much less than we think. Instead, Pfaff urges us to look at other factors, especially a major shift in prosecutor behavior that occurred in the mid-1990s, when prosecutors began bringing felony charges against arrestees about twice as often as they had before. An authoritative, clear-eyed account of a national catastrophe, Locked In is "a must-read for anyone who dreams of an America that is not the world's most imprisoned nation" (Chris Hayes, author of A Colony in a Nation). It transforms our understanding of what ails the American system of punishment and ultimately forces us to reconsider how we can build a more equitable and humane society.