Livin the American Dream

The goal of this course over the past three months has been to examine the motivations and intentions behind the growing phenomenon of mass incarceration that exists in this country. We have researched this question from various vantage points by referencing historical, sociological, political, economic, and philosophical data. Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s study, Golden Gulag: Prisons, […]

Tales from Prison: Prison Writing in 20th Century America

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The stories told in Prison Writing in 20th Century America convey brutally raw human emotions that can only be experienced while one is incarcerated. The memoirs of these men and women answer the question “What is wrong with prisons in America today?” in a way that statistics, legal jargon, and political platforms can not. The […]

After being released from Tomoka Correctional Facility, AIDS patient Keith Carter revealed the deficient health care he received while incarcerated. “It’s a terrible, terrible feeling to be powerless over your own life. The judge gave me ten years. He didn’t sentence me to death”.[1] Carter’s poignant comment tells a lot about the health care available […]

A primary component of the prison culture is violence, whether it is towards oneself or others. This rampant abuse manifests itself verbally, emotionally, and physically. This week’s readings from Prison Nation, Prison Masculinities and the Detroit Free Press demonstrate how violence is used in prison as a means of exhibiting power, dominance, and masculinity over […]

In proposing an alternative to indeterminate sentencing and parole, scholar James Q. Wilson stated: “Instead we could view the correctional system as having a very different function- to isolate and to punish…(This is) merely a recognition that society must be able to protect itself from dangerous offenders…It is also a frank admission that society really […]

When one thinks of prison labor, images of criminals in striped jumpsuits chained together at the ankles along a Southern highway come to mind. The readings from this week, Alex Lichtenstein’s Twice the Work of Free Labor and selections from Herivel and Wright’s Prison Nation, focused on the history of prison labor and examined how […]

The tradition of “the prison problem”

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This week’s readings from McClennan and Gottschalk give insight into the long history of political crisis, instability, conflict, and anxiety that has contributed to today’s prison-based punitive system. Since its birth, the prison has been an official symbol of security, justice, and political power. McClennan’s writing, The Crisis of Imprisonment, focuses on the ongoing debate […]

Matthew Countryman is a scholar whom I had never heard of before, but by the end of his lecture yesterday evening, I was very impressed with. His studies of African American history revolve around the theme proving that racism was never only a southern phenomenon. Countryman sees black power in its traditional sense as an […]

This week’s readings addressed the issue of prison reform. In her book, Are Prisons Obsolete?, Angela Davis critiques the current prison system and suggests that we find “new terrains of justice” to deal with criminal offenses.[1] Richard A. Wright’s In Defense of Prisons is a good counterpoint to Davis’ argument. While Davis argues that we […]

It is somewhat ironic that while the United States boasts “liberty and justice for all”, over 2 million Americans are currently incarcerated. The number of Americans in prison and jail is six times higher than what it was thirty years ago, for the historically highest rate of 726 inmates per 100,000 people. This is also […]

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