American Prisons : Their Past, Present and Future book cover
1st Edition

American Prisons
Their Past, Present and Future

ISBN 9781138805798
Published May 18, 2017 by Routledge
242 Pages

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Book Description

Imprisonment has become big business in the United States. Using a "history of ideas" approach, this book examines the cultural underpinnings of prisons in the United States and explores how shared ideas about imprisonment evolve into a complex, loosely connected nationwide system of prisons that keeps enough persons to populate a small nation behind bars, razor wire and electrified fences.

Tracing both the history of the prison and the very idea of imprisonment in the United States, this book provides students with a critical overview of American prisons and considers their past, their present and directions for the future. Topics covered include:

• a history of imprisonment in America from 1600 to the present day;

• the twentieth-century prison building binge;

• the relationship between U.S. prisons and the private sector;

• a critical account of capital punishment;

• less-visible prison minorities, including women, children and the elderly; and

• sex, violence and disease in prison.

This comprehensive book is essential reading for advanced courses on corrections and correctional management and offers a compelling and provocative analysis of the realities of American penal culture from past to present. It is perfect reading for students of criminal justice, corrections, penology and the sociology of punishment.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. A Brief History of Imprisonment in America (1600-1900)

3. The Twentieth Century Prison Building Binge

4. Federal Prisons in The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

5. Profiting from Punishment: Corporations and American Prisons

6. The Final Solution - Capital Punishment

7. Less Visible Prison Minorities - Women, Children and the Elderly

8. Prison By-Products - Violence and Disease

9. The Future of Prisons in The United States





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David Musick earned his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, Riverside. His areas of specialization include the history of ideas, criminology and juvenile delinquency. For most of his adult life, he worked with inmates, as a counselor, teacher and social researcher, in a number of adult and juvenile prisons. For over thirty years, he taught courses on the sociology of corrections. In collaboration with his wife, Kristine, Professor Musick has worked as an expert on over fifty capital murder cases.

Kristine Gunsaulus-Musick earned her Ph.D. in Human Rehabilitation at the University of Northern Colorado. Her background in social science, secondary education, and the mental health fields has informed a career that includes work as a university center psychologist, professor, researcher, and published writer. She has maintained a private practice as a licensed psychologist in the Rocky Mountains, alongside the collaborative "systems" work, research, and writing she enjoys with her spouse, David.


"As someone who has written on American society and its problems, but who is not an expert in any sense on prisons in America, I found this book to be fascinating and enlightening, even as it exams worrisome but important issues that should concern all Americans and, most certainly, scholars and students interested the dilemmas posed by the American penal system. American Prisons examines the history, development, and operation of prisons in the United States right up to the present; and so doing, it addresses their building, efforts to privatize, financing, inmates, costs to public, disease and health risks, sex, rapes, violence, gangs, subcultures, riots, executions, profiteering, and less-acknowledged inmates such as children, women, sick, and elderly.

"Books like this are what made me become a sociology major some six decades ago, and later a professor for over fifty years; and it is just this kind of book that will do the same for students today, and for the faculty who teach them. It is an engaging read that I highly recommend."

Jonathan H. Turner, University Professor, University of California, Riverside and Research Professor University of California, Santa Barbara