Do Prisons Make Us Safer?
The Benefits and Costs of the Prison Boom
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Title Page, Copyright Page
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About the Authors
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Do prisons make us safer? This question is central to the debate about the great American experiment in imprisonment that the country has undergone over the past twenty-five years. Over this period, the incarcerated population has swelled in the United States, such that incarceration is becoming a relatively common experience for many American men. This is...
PART I Prison Boom Context
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2. Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?
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The United States currently incarcerates its residents at a rate that is greater than any other country in the world. Aggregating the state and federal-prison populations as well as inmates in local jails, there were 737 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2005 (International Centre for Prison Studies 2007). This compares with a world average of 166 per 100,000 and...
3. The Origins of Mass Incarceration in New York State: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Local War on Drugs
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From the vantage point of the early 1970s, noted criminologists Alfred Blumstein and his colleagues (Blumstein and Cohen 1973) could point to the remarkable stability in the U.S. incarceration rate since 1925 as well as comparable evidence from several other developed industrialized countries (figure 3.1).1 Despite the economic, political, and social turbulence...
Part 2. The Benefits and Costs of the Prison Boom
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4. The Impact of Prison on Crime
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Sentencing policy in the United States is guided by two general philosophies of punishment: a crime-control or instrumental philosophy, and a retributive philosophy. A crime-control philosophy is predicated on the expectation that punishing offenders is justified only because it produces some greater good—a reduction in crime that would not have occurred...
5. The People Prisons Make:Effects of Incarceration on Criminal Psychology
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The rise of the drug war and the move to get “tough on crime” that began in the 1980s marked an unmitigated shift in the policy paradigm of the criminal justice system. Nowhere did this ideological change play out as clearly as it did in America’s prisons. Not only did incarceration rates surge, but what was once a system predicated on a rehabilitation ethic...
6. Ever-Increasing Levels of Parental Incarceration and the Consequences for Children
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The enormous increase in incarceration led to a parallel, but far less documented, increase in the proportion of children who grew up with a parent incarcerated at some point during their childhood. Moreover, the concentration of these incarceration trends among less-educated African Americans has resulted in a larger gulf between the early-life experiences of...
7. Footing the Bill: Causes and Budgetary Consequences of State Spending on Corrections
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This chapter provides an overview of state budgeting for corrections. As such it addresses the following questions: How much do states spend on corrections? To what degree has state corrections spending grown over time? How does that spending vary across the states and over time? What factors account for this variation? Finally, does rising spending on corrections...
8. Collateral Costs: Effects of Incarceration on Employment and Earnings Among Young Workers
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The enormous increases in incarceration that have occurred in the United States over the past few decades have no doubt generated major benefits and costs to society. On the one hand, they have likely reduced crime, at least to some extent, which generates a large benefit to society. On the other hand, it has cost enormous public sums to build and operate prisons...
Part 3. Are We at a Socially Optimal Level of Imprisonment?
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9. Assessing the Relative Benefits of Incarceration: Overall Changes and the Benefits on the Margin
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In June 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill launching the interstate highway system in the United States. Over the next twenty years, close to 40,000 miles of superhighways were built across America. As the era of massive federal highway building came to an end in the mid-1970s, it was replaced by the next massive public-works project in America: the...
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2009