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The Punitive Turn

The Punitive Turn: New Approaches to Race and Incarceration

Deborah E. McDowell
Claudrena N. Harold
Juan Battle
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Punitive Turn
    Book Description:

    The Punitive Turnexplores the historical, political, economic, and sociocultural roots of mass incarceration, as well as its collateral costs and consequences. Giving significant attention to the exacting toll that incarceration takes on inmates, their families, their communities, and society at large, the volume's contributors investigate the causes of the unbridled expansion of incarceration in the United States. Experts from multiple scholarly disciplines offer fresh research on race and inequality in the criminal justice system and the effects of mass incarceration on minority groups' economic situation and political inclusion. In addition, practitioners and activists from the Sentencing Project, the Virginia Organizing Project, and the Restorative Community Foundation, among others, discuss race and imprisonment from the perspective of those working directly in the field. Employing a multidisciplinary approach, the essays included in the volume provide an unprecedented range of perspectives on the growth and racial dimensions of incarceration in the United States and generate critical questions not simply about the penal system but also about the inner workings, failings, and future of American democracy.

    Contributors: Ethan Blue (University of Western Australia) * Mary Ellen Curtin (American University) * Harold Folley (Virginia Organizing Project) * Eddie Harris (Children Youth and Family Services) * Anna R. Haskins (University of Wisconsin-Madison) * Cheryl D. Hicks (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) * Charles E. Lewis Jr. (Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy) * Marc Mauer (The Sentencing Project) * Anoop Mirpuri (Portland State University) * Christopher Muller (Harvard University) * Marlon B. Ross (University of Virginia) * Jim Shea (Community Organizer) * Jonathan Simon (University of California-Berkeley) * Heather Ann Thompson (Temple University) * Debbie Walker (The Female Perspective) * Christopher Wildeman (Yale University) * Interviews by Jared Brown (University of Virginia) & Tshepo Morongwa Chéry (University of Texas-Austin)

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3521-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword: Challenging Mass Incarceration
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Marc Mauer

    It is now commonplace to note that the United States, with its more than 2 million people behind bars, has become the world’s leading jailer, incarcerating far more of its citizens than do other industrialized nations. Criminologists and political theorists have produced a broad range of scholarship assessing the unique political culture, social structure, and racial dynamics that have produced this phenomenon.

    While these analyses have been enlightening, it is important to note that mass incarceration is no longer a new development. As far back as 1991, the Sentencing Project issued a report documenting that the United States had become...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    When Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont journeyed to the United States in 1831 to tour its prisons, they immediately described the “monomania of the penitentiary system,” noting that “while society in the U.S. gives the example of the most extended liberty,” its penitentiaries “offered the spectacle of the most complete despotism,” evidence of a mistaken belief that prisons were a “remedy for all the evils of society.” The observations of Tocqueville and Beaumont still retain their relevance. The alarms they sounded in the early decades of the nineteenth century have only grown. Indeed, many at the forefront of...

  6. 1. Punishment in Historical Perspective

    • “Please Hear Our Cries”: The Hidden History of Black Prisoners in America
      (pp. 29-44)
      Mary Ellen Curtin

      How should historians approach the history of the imprisoned, and how should the parameters of research be defined? A field largely dominated by social scientists, prison history remains fairly new terrain for historians who still seem to lack a central set of questions to explore or a methodology to employ. Is prison history the story of institutions or of convicts? When does it begin—at the moment of incarceration or the moment of arrest and trial? And when does it end—upon release or later? Should historians also attempt to trace the ripple effects of prison life on communities and...

    • From Researching the Past to Reimagining the Future: Locating Carceral Crisis and the Key to Its End, in the Long Twentieth Century
      (pp. 45-72)
      Heather Ann Thompson

      By the first decade of the twenty-first century, the United States found itself in an unimaginable incarceration crisis. As the new millennium dawned, this country was locking up more of its citizens than any other country on the globe. By 2010, more than 7 million Americans had become trapped in the criminal justice system and more than 2 million of them were actually living behind bars. African Americans suffered this turn to mass incarceration most dramatically. Indeed, with one in nine black men aged twenty to thirty-four eventually imprisoned in America, as Lawrence Bobo and Victor Thompson recently pointed out,...

    • “Bright and Good Looking Colored Girl”: Black Women’s Sexuality and “Harmful Intimacy” in Early-Twentieth-Century New York
      (pp. 73-107)
      Cheryl D. Hicks

      Mabel Hampton’s experiences in early-twentieth-century Harlem never quite measured up to the popular image that many New Yorkers (and later the world) held of the black neighborhood. In 1924, as a twenty-one-year-old resident, she knew that visitors from other parts of the city would go to “the nightclubs … and dance to such jazz music as [could] be heard nowhere else,” that the region’s major thoroughfares like Lenox and Seventh Avenues were “never deserted,” while various “crowds skipp[ed] from one place of amusement to another.”¹ Those crowds of primarily middle-class white voyeurs, fulfilling their own ideas about the primitiveness and...

    • Abject Correction and Penal Medical Photography in the Early Twentieth Century
      (pp. 108-130)
      Ethan Blue

      On the morning of March 14, 1913—the first of many such times, Dr. Leo L. Stanley, the resident physician at San Quentin State Prison, took part in a man’s execution. While Stanley waited anxiously under the scaffold in the prison’s death chamber, above him, Poolos Prantikos, a forty-five-year-old Greek immigrant convicted of killing two police officers, awaited the moment of death. As Prantikos murmured prayers, Stanley noted the details around him—the scaffold’s thirteen steps painted “robin’s egg blue,” the gray walls of the gallows room. Guards bound Prantikos’s legs, pulled a black hood over his head, and tightened...

    • Mass Incarceration, Prisoner Rights, and the Legacy of the Radical Prison Movement
      (pp. 131-156)
      Anoop Mirpuri

      On the morning of September 13, 1971, state troopers stormed the Attica Correctional Facility in Upstate New York and opened fire indiscriminately, killing at least forty-three people.¹ The attack was a militarized police response to the takeover of the facility by prisoners four days earlier. Disillusioned by the reformist promises of the state corrections administration, under pressure from hostile guards, and seething at the violence fostered by the application of “correctional” techniques, prisoners overturned the authority structures of the prison and for a brief period demanded the attention of the entire nation. More than 1,200 of Attica’s 2,243 inmates occupied...

  7. 2. Social and Economic Consequences of Punishment

    • Economic and Relational Penalties of Incarceration
      (pp. 159-176)
      Charles E. Lewis Jr.

      The election of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States and the first person of African heritage to ascend to this nation’s highest office gives us much to celebrate. However, enormous challenges still confront our nation and African Americans specifically. Many of the issues facing African Americans—health disparities, poor education and economic outcomes, and limited family formation—either lead to, stem from, or are in some way connected to the fact that so many African Americans are involved with the criminal justice system. Disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system is arguably the most vexing civil...

    • Implications of Mass Imprisonment for Inequality among American Children
      (pp. 177-191)
      Christopher Wildeman, Anna R. Haskins and Christopher Muller

      In 1973, the American imprisonment rate began an ascent from which it has only recently deviated. In just over thirty-five years, the rate grew fivefold, from roughly 100 per 100,000 people to roughly 500 per 100,000 (figure 1). Although the incarceration rates of comparable nations have also grown over the same period, none approaches that of the United States. England, the nation with the second-highest incarceration rate among long-standing Western democracies, incarcerates its residents at a rate one-fifth as high as that of the United States (Western 2006: 14).

      Imprisonment has long been a topic of penological and criminological inquiry,...

    • The “Hard Back” of Mass Incarceration: Fear, Structural Racism, and the Overpunishment of Violent Crime
      (pp. 192-210)
      Jonathan Simon

      Recent efforts to limit mass incarceration have focused on moving persons convicted of drug or property crimes into drug treatment through diversion or enhanced probation programs as an alternative to imprisonment. These measures have much merit, and the political risks of pursuing them seem minimal. The public does not perceive drug users and drug addicts who commit property crimes as inherently dangerous; and the policy case for improving future outcomes at less cost through treatment has achieved compelling force in our political culture at the present juncture.¹ Moreover, many blame the “War on Drugs” for targeting minorities and reinforcing structural...

  8. 3. Race, Prison, and the Aesthetic Imagination

    • Rage against the Machine: African American Music and the Evolution of the Penitentiary Blues, 1961–2000
      (pp. 213-235)
      Claudrena N. Harold

      Late in the afternoon of April 4, 2003, an eclectic crowd of two thousand crammed into Treme Community Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, for the opening session of the conference “Critical Resistance South: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex.” Commencing on the thirty-fifth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the three-day conference featured several prominent intellectuals, prison abolitionists, and penal reform advocates, including Angela Davis, Jason Zeidenberg of the Justice Policy Institute, former Black Panther Robert Wilkerson, and Dan Horowitz de Garcia, program director of Project South in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the course of the historic gathering, attendees listened...

    • Law and Dis/Order: The Banefully Alluring Arts of the Carceral Imaginary
      (pp. 236-262)
      Marlon B. Ross

      I Want to start with a self-humbling confession. I love the TV seriesLaw and Order. I used to love the HBO seriesOz. Even more insidious than these shows is the recent reality TV showInside American Jail(Spike TV). Focused ostensibly on actual inmates behind bars, this new show is by the same team that gave us the reality showCops,which captures police officers in various cities making arrests of suspects (faces often covered). These suspects are presumed guilty upon the filmed arrest, despite the disclaimer asserting the contrary at each episode’s end. These shows are so...

  9. 4. Life after Prison:: Interviews

    • Jim Shea
      (pp. 265-278)
      Jared Brown and Jim Shea

      Jared Brown: Could you begin by introducing yourself?

      Jim Shea: My name is Jim Shea. I’m a retired university employee. I am also an alumnus of the university. I’m an ex-offender. I’m active in various political circles in Charlottesville. I’m an old guy with thirteen grandchildren.

      JB: Could you elaborate on some of the political involvement that you spoke about?

      JS: These days my partner of forty years, Brenda Lambert, and I, have been very active in the Dialogue on Race and in particular we are members of an action team within the Dialogue that is addressing reentry problems of...

    • Harold Folley
      (pp. 279-289)
      Tshepo Morongwa Chéry and Harold Folley

      Tshepo Morongwa Chéry: How did you get involved in Virginia Organizing?¹

      Harold Folley: I got involved with Virginia Organizing through the Public Housing Association of Residents, a citywide organization that works on housing issues throughout the city of Charlottesville. There are seven public housing sites, and I was an organizer for them. Then I became an organizer for Virginia Organizing in 2007.

      TMC: What’s the connection between the public housing project and Virginia Organizing?

      HF: Well, our concept at Virginia Organizing is a little bit different than the Public Housing Association of Residents. Public Housing Residents work on a small...

    • Eddie Harris
      (pp. 290-300)
      Tshepo Morongwa Chéry and Eddie Harris

      Tshepo Morongwa Chéry: This is an interview with Mr. Eddie Harris from REAL Dads.¹ Can you please describe how you got involved with the [REAL Dads] program?

      Eddie Harris: Well, actually I got involved with REAL Dads when I was facing a criminal situation and I needed a job. I was working at a carpet-cleaning place doing some telemarketing, and a friend of mine suggested [that I] contact the folks at Children, Youth & Family Services. They were doing some outreach in our community, and they felt like because I know the community so well that that would be a pretty...

    • Debbie Walker
      (pp. 301-314)
      Tshepo Morongwa Chéry and Debbie Walker

      Tshepo Morongwa Chéry: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experiences with the prison system, and how you became involved in the fe-Male Perspective?

      Debbie Walker: I moved up here [Charlottesville] back in March from Danville. Because of my involvement with the prison system, I made a strong decision in my life not to go back. Once you become an offender, it’s really easy to go back, whether it’s two years from now or whether it’s ten years from the time you’re released, it’s just really easy to get caught back up in that, and there...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 315-318)
  11. Index
    (pp. 319-335)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 336-336)