The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America (Cambridge Studies in Criminology)

The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass Incarceration in America (Cambridge Studies in Criminology)

Marie Gottschalk

Language: English

Pages: 468

ISBN: 0521682916

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The United States has built a carceral state that is unprecedented among Western countries and in US history. Nearly one in 50 people, excluding children and the elderly, is incarcerated today, a rate unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. What are some of the main political forces that explain this unprecedented reliance on mass imprisonment? Throughout American history, crime and punishment have been central features of American political development. This 2006 book examines the development of four key movements that mediated the construction of the carceral state in important ways: the victims' movement, the women's movement, the prisoners' rights movement, and opponents of the death penalty. This book argues that punitive penal policies were forged by particular social movements and interest groups within the constraints of larger institutional structures and historical developments that distinguish the United States from other Western countries.

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with the crass slogan, “Tap Into the Sixty-Five Billion Dollar Local Jails Market.”107 Hallinan portrays the annual convention of the American Correctional Association (ACA), the largest private correctional organization in the country and once the epicenter of prison reform activities in the United States, as largely a corporate-sponsored trade fair for penal gadgets and services.108 Warden after warden told Hallinan that running a prison today is like running a business. Prison administrators

it from the victims’ movement that emerged later in the United States. First, it originated with elite penal reformers concerned foremost about the plight of offenders and broader penal reform issues. Second, victims themselves did not wage a mass campaign. Indeed, they were largely “mute, invisible, and unorganized.”24 The creation of the victims’ compensation scheme in England was primarily the result of elite-level politics without any significant public input. Finally, victims’ compensation

sought to educate the black community about the racist and sexist myths surrounding crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence. At the same time, these activists acknowledged the limitations of a strategy premised on merely increasing the number of rape convictions. In attempting to educate blacks in the St. Louis area about the seriousness of the problem of violence against women, they expressed concerns about the criminalization of blacks, Hispanics, and other groups at the hands of an

generally rejected demands for radical changes in how they responded to the problem of domestic violence. However, in the United States they were more willing to acknowledge the problem and the need for some new remedies in a way that the British authorities, especially the police and the Home Office, were not.19 By conceding that law enforcement was partly to blame, criminal justice and other state authorities in the United States helped direct attention toward penal solutions and away from

Attorney General’s Task Force on Family Violence backed its conclusions, and a number of training guides for police departments began advocating mandatory arrest, even though this policy appeared to raise some significant constitutional issues.71 The findings from the Minneapolis experiment were suggestive, not conclusive. Nonetheless, by the mid-1980s, a pro-arrest stance had become the consensus opinion among domestic violence activists in the United States, according to NCADV executive

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