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The Punitive Turn

New Approaches to Race and Incarceration

Edited by Deborah E. McDowell, Claudrena N. Harold, and Juan Battle

Publication Year: 2013

The Punitive Turn explores 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)

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Series: Carter G. Woodson Institute Series

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Foreword: Challenging Mass Incarceration

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pp. vii-xiii

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 ...

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pp. xv-xv

This collection of essays grew out of a three-day symposium held at the University of Virginia during the spring of 2009. Sponsored by the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, the symposium’s theme was “The Problem of Punishment: Race, Inequality, and Justice.” The vast majority of essays collected in this volume were given as short papers and then expanded ...

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pp. 1-25

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 ...

1. Punishment in Historical Perspective

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“Please Hear Our Cries”

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pp. 29-44

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 ...

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From Researching the Past to Reimagining the Future

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pp. 45-72

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 ...

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“Bright and Good Looking Colored Girl”

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pp. 73-107

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 ...

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Abject Correction andPenal Medical Photographyin the Early Twentieth Century

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pp. 108-130

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 ...

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Mass Incarceration, Prisoner Rights,and the Legacy of the RadicalPrison Movement

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pp. 131-155

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 ...

2. Social and Economic Consequences of Punishment

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Economic and Relational Penaltiesof Incarceration

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pp. 159-176

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 ...

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Implications of Mass Imprisonment forInequality among American Children

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pp. 177-191

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 ...

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The “Hard Back” of Mass Incarceration

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pp. 192-209

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 ...

3. Race, Prison, and the Aesthetic Imagination

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Rage against the Machine

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pp. 213-235

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- fi fth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the three- day conference featured several prominent ...

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Law and Dis/Order

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pp. 236-262

I want to start with a self-humbling confession. I love the TV series Law and Order. I used to love the HBO series Oz. Even more insidious than these shows is the recent reality TV show Inside American Jail (Spike TV). Focused ostensibly on actual inmates behind bars, this new show is by the same team that gave us the reality show Cops, which captures police officers in various cities making arrests ...

4. Life after Prison:Interviews

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Jim Shea

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pp. 265-278

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. ...

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Harold Folley

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pp. 279-289

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 ...

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Eddie Harris

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pp. 290-300

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 ...

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Debbie Walker

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pp. 301-314

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 ...


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pp. 315-318


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pp. 319-335

E-ISBN-13: 9780813935218
E-ISBN-10: 0813935210
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813935201
Print-ISBN-10: 0813935202

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 4 b&w illus., 1 graph, 9 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Carter G. Woodson Institute Series
Series Editor Byline: Deborah E. McDowell See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 864681339
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Punitive Turn

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Discrimination in criminal justice administration -- United States.
  • Criminal justice, Administration of -- United States.
  • Corrections -- United States.
  • Imprisonment -- United States.
  • African American prisoners.
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