The American Penal System : Transparency as a Pathway to Correctional Reform book cover
1st Edition

The American Penal System
Transparency as a Pathway to Correctional Reform

ISBN 9781032248219
Published May 6, 2022 by Routledge
146 Pages

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Book Description

This thoughtful examination of incarceration in the United States from the 1980s to the current time offers for consideration a transparent and humane correctional model for the future. Author Helen Clarke Molanphy employs an interdisciplinary approach encompassing sociology, penology, memoir, philosophy, and history.

Featuring the work of researchers as well as penal theorists of the Enlightenment era, literati who have written about crime and punishment, inmates, social justice activists, and journalists, the author incorporates first-hand interviews with participants in the landmark Ruiz v. Estelle lawsuit, which found incarceration in the Texas Department of Corrections to be cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Synthesizing lessons learned from years of studying the American prison system through contact with inmates, correctional authorities, legislators, and prisoner advocates, Molanphy offers a narrative of crime and punishment, degradation, and dehumanization, but with hope pointing to future correctional reforms. The book not only catalogs human rights abuses and the pain inflicted by corrupt penal systems, but also provides a roadmap for an enlightened society to conceive of ways to reduce mass incarceration and provide humane treatment of inmates.

This reflective survey of the pervasive issues that afflict the prison industrial complex offers a compelling analysis of the past and possible future of the US penal system for students of criminal justice, corrections, penology, and the sociology of punishment.

Table of Contents

Part I - The Texas Department of Corrections

1 - Texas Control Model

2 - Jailhouse Lawyers

3 - Ruiz v. Estelle

4 - Texas Prison Administrators

5 - Texas Today

Part II - Demographics of American Prisons

6 - The Unschooled

7 - The Young and the Old

8 - The Female Inmate

9 - Poor People of Color

10 - The Political Prisoner

Part III - Major Problems in Corrections

11 - Guard Brutality and Corruption

12 - Wrongfully Convicted

13 - Treatment of Mentally Ill Inmates

14 - Prison Labor

15 - Privatization of Corrections

Part IV - Toward Ending Mass Incarceration

16 - Legislative Agendas

17 - The Supreme Court and the US Department of Justice

18 - Reducing Recidivism

19 - Alternative Models

20 - Restorative Justice


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Dr. Helen Clarke Molanphy is political science emeritus professor at Richland College in Dallas, Texas. She has taught sociology and criminal justice courses at various institutions including Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Dallas, Adams State University, the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and the Santa Fe Community College. Molanphy is the author of a family memoir, Over P.J. Clarke's Bar: Tales from New York's Famous Saloon, using her maiden name, Helen Marie Clarke. She resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband, John Molanphy.


"This book is an excellent survey of the pervasive issues that plague the American Prison System, and it eloquently interrogates valuable solutions for those very problems."

Dr. Tyrell Connor, Associate Professor, SUNY New Paltz