Punishment and Inequality in America

Russell Sage Foundation
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Over the last thirty years, the prison population in the United States has increased more than seven-fold to over two million people, including vastly disproportionate numbers of minorities and people with little education. For some racial and educational groups, incarceration has become a depressingly regular experience, and prison culture and influence pervade their communities. Almost 60 percent of black male high school drop-outs in their early thirties have spent time in prison. In Punishment and Inequality in America, sociologist Bruce Western explores the recent era of mass incarceration and the serious social and economic consequences it has wrought.

Punishment and Inequality in America dispels many of the myths about the relationships among crime, imprisonment, and inequality. While many people support the increase in incarceration because of recent reductions in crime, Western shows that the decrease in crime rates in the 1990s was mostly fueled by growth in city police forces and the pacification of the drug trade. Getting “tough on crime” with longer sentences only explains about 10 percent of the fall in crime, but has come at a significant cost. Punishment and Inequality in America reveals a strong relationship between incarceration and severely dampened economic prospects for former inmates. Western finds that because of their involvement in the penal system, young black men hardly benefited from the economic boom of the 1990s. Those who spent time in prison had much lower wages and employment rates than did similar men without criminal records. The losses from mass incarceration spread to the social sphere as well, leaving one out of ten young black children with a father behind bars by the end of the 1990s, thereby helping perpetuate the damaging cycle of broken families, poverty, and crime.

The recent explosion of imprisonment is exacting heavy costs on American society and exacerbating inequality. Whereas college or the military were once the formative institutions in young men’s lives, prison has increasingly usurped that role in many communities. Punishment and Inequality in America profiles how the growth in incarceration came about and the toll it is taking on the social and economic fabric of many American communities.

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About the author

BRUCE WESTERN is professor of sociology at Princeton University.

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Publisher
Russell Sage Foundation
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Published on
May 25, 2006
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9781610445559
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / General
Social Science / Criminology
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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This content is DRM protected.
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Mary Pattillo
Over the last thirty years, the U.S. penal population increased from around 300,000 to more than two million, with more than half a million prisoners returning to their home communities each year. What are the social costs to the communities from which this vast incarcerated population comes? And what happens to these communities when former prisoners return as free men and women in need of social and economic support? In Imprisoning America, an interdisciplinary group of leading researchers in economics, criminal justice, psychology, sociology, and social work goes beyond a narrow focus on crime to examine the connections between incarceration and family formation, labor markets, political participation, and community well-being.

The book opens with a consideration of the impact of incarceration on families. Using a national survey of young parents, Bruce Western and colleagues show the enduring corrosive effects of incarceration on marriage and cohabitation, even after a prison sentence has been served. Kathryn Edin, Timothy Nelson, and Rechelle Parnal use in-depth life histories of low-income men in Philadelphia and Charleston, to study how incarceration not only damages but sometimes strengthens relations between fathers and their children. Imprisoning America then turns to how mass incarceration affects local communities and society at large. Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza use survey data and interviews with thirty former felons to explore the political ramifications of disenfranchising inmates and former felons. Harry Holzer, Stephen Raphael, and Michael Stoll examine how poor labor market opportunities for former prisoners are shaped by employers’ (sometimes unreliable) background checks. Jeremy Travis concludes that corrections policy must extend beyond incarceration to help former prisoners reconnect with their families, communities, and the labor market. He recommends greater collaboration between prison officials and officials in child and family welfare services, educational and job training programs, and mental and public health agencies.

Imprisoning America vividly illustrates that the experience of incarceration itself—and not just the criminal involvement of inmates—negatively affects diverse aspects of social membership. By contributing to the social exclusion of an already marginalized population, mass incarceration may actually increase crime rates, and threaten the public safety it was designed to secure. A rigorous portrayal of the pitfalls of getting tough on crime, Imprisoning America highlights the pressing need for new policies to support ex-prisoners and the families and communities to which they return.

David B. Grusky
Officially over in 2009, the Great Recession is now generally acknowledged to be the most devastating global economic crisis since the Great Depression. As a result of the crisis, the United States lost more than 7.5 million jobs, and the unemployment rate doubled—peaking at more than 10 percent. The collapse of the housing market and subsequent equity market fluctuations delivered a one-two punch that destroyed trillions of dollars in personal wealth and made many Americans far less financially secure. Still reeling from these early shocks, the U.S. economy will undoubtedly take years to recover. Less clear, however, are the social effects of such economic hardship on a U.S. population accustomed to long periods of prosperity. How are Americans responding to these hard times? The Great Recession is the first authoritative assessment of how the aftershocks of the recession are affecting individuals and families, jobs, earnings and poverty, political and social attitudes, lifestyle and consumption practices, and charitable giving.

Focused on individual-level effects rather than institutional causes, The Great Recession turns to leading experts to examine whether the economic aftermath caused by the recession is transforming how Americans live their lives, what they believe in, and the institutions they rely on. Contributors Michael Hout, Asaf Levanon, and Erin Cumberworth show how job loss during the recession—the worst since the 1980s—hit less-educated workers, men, immigrants, and factory and construction workers the hardest. Millions of lost industrial jobs are likely never to be recovered and where new jobs are appearing, they tend to be either high-skill positions or low-wage employment—offering few opportunities for the middle-class. Edward Wolff, Lindsay Owens, and Esra Burak examine the effects of the recession on housing and wealth for the very poor and the very rich. They find that while the richest Americans experienced the greatest absolute wealth loss, their resources enabled them to weather the crisis better than the young families, African Americans, and the middle class, who experienced the most disproportionate loss—including mortgage delinquencies, home foreclosures, and personal bankruptcies. Lane Kenworthy and Lindsay Owens ask whether this recession is producing enduring shifts in public opinion akin to those that followed the Great Depression. Surprisingly, they find no evidence of recession-induced attitude changes toward corporations, the government, perceptions of social justice, or policies aimed at aiding the poor. Similarly, Philip Morgan, Erin Cumberworth, and Christopher Wimer find no major recession effects on marriage, divorce, or cohabitation rates. They do find a decline in fertility rates, as well as increasing numbers of adult children returning home to the family nest—evidence that suggests deep pessimism about recovery.

This protracted slump—marked by steep unemployment, profound destruction of wealth, and sluggish consumer activity—will likely continue for years to come, and more pronounced effects may surface down the road. The contributors note that, to date, this crisis has not yet generated broad shifts in lifestyle and attitudes. But by clarifying how the recession’s early impacts have—and have not—influenced our current economic and social landscape, The Great Recession establishes an important benchmark against which to measure future change.

Vincent Bugliosi
Beth L. BAILEY
Sex in the Heartland is the story of the sexual revolution in a small university town in the quintessential heartland state of Kansas. Bypassing the oft-told tales of radicals and revolutionaries on either coast, Beth Bailey argues that the revolution was forged in towns and cities alike, as "ordinary" people struggled over the boundaries of public and private sexual behavior in postwar America.

Bailey fundamentally challenges contemporary perceptions of the revolution as simply a triumph of free love and gay lib. Rather, she explores the long-term and mainstream changes in American society, beginning in the economic and social dislocations of World War II and the explosion of mass media and communication, which aided and abetted the sexual upheaval of the 1960s. Focusing on Lawrence, Kansas, we discover the intricacies and depth of a transformation that was nurtured at the grass roots.

Americans used the concept of revolution to make sense of social and sexual changes as they lived through them. Everything from the birth control pill and counterculture to Civil Rights, was conflated into "the revolution," an accessible but deceptive simplification, too easy to both glorify and vilify. Bailey untangles the radically different origins, intentions, and outcomes of these events to help us understand their roles and meanings for sex in contemporary America. She argues that the sexual revolution challenged and partially overturned a system of sexual controls based on oppression, inequality, and exploitation, and created new models of sex and gender relations that have shaped our society in powerful and positive ways.

Table of Contents:
Introduction

Before the Revolution
Sex and the Therapeutic Culture
Responsible Sex
Prescribing the Pill
Revolutionary Intent
Sex as a Weapon
Sex and Liberation
Remaking Sex

Epilogue

Abbreviations
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index

Reviews of this book:
[A] vivid reminder of just how national and chaotic the events we call 'the sixties' really were...Bailey's exploration of the sexual revolution offers a subtler sense of the underlying forces of that era, which unified even while dividing a nation and, ultimately, the world.
--Tom Engelhardt, The Nation

Reviews of this book:
[Beth Bailey's] applied research here is interesting, imaginative and compassionate, and the final treat is that Bailey is a very good writer. Sex in the Heartland is simply a fascinating read. I'm sorry I can't call her up and congratulate her on this book in person...[This book is] beautifully shaped, carefully thought out, a treasury of useful information.
--Carolyn See, Washington Post

Reviews of this book:
One of the great strengths of this book is Bailey's ability to make local characters, institutions and fights vital and compelling, all the while keeping an eye on the broader issues at stake. She gives us a vivid portrait of one university town in transition and a case study for U.S. social history. A cast of local characters comes alive...Virtually every chapter has surprising, subtle turns in which Bailey's thesis of historical paradox and unintended consequences is amply demonstrated.
--Maureen McLane, Chicago Tribune

Reviews of this book:
Published by the prestigious Harvard University Press, the book suggests that out-of-the-mainstream states such as Kansas actually were on the cutting edge of the nation's sexual revolution during the early 1960s.
--Matt Moline, Capital-Journal

Reviews of this book:
"[Bailey] points out that those who claim the radical nature of the [sexual] revolution may be surprised by just how deep-seated and mainstream the origins of many of those revolutionary changes were."
--Philip Godwin, M.D., Journal-World

Reviews of this book:
"Bailey examines the 20th-century 'sexual revolution' as it played out in the midwestern college town of Lawrence, Kansas...Bailey is especially perceptive on the ambivalent and conflicted relationship of both the feminist and gay rights movements to the sexual revolution. She also has strong sections on the birth control pill and other moremundane but long-lasting changes in American sexual culture...[A] fascinating and impressive book."
--K. Blaser, Choice

Mary Pattillo
Over the last thirty years, the U.S. penal population increased from around 300,000 to more than two million, with more than half a million prisoners returning to their home communities each year. What are the social costs to the communities from which this vast incarcerated population comes? And what happens to these communities when former prisoners return as free men and women in need of social and economic support? In Imprisoning America, an interdisciplinary group of leading researchers in economics, criminal justice, psychology, sociology, and social work goes beyond a narrow focus on crime to examine the connections between incarceration and family formation, labor markets, political participation, and community well-being.

The book opens with a consideration of the impact of incarceration on families. Using a national survey of young parents, Bruce Western and colleagues show the enduring corrosive effects of incarceration on marriage and cohabitation, even after a prison sentence has been served. Kathryn Edin, Timothy Nelson, and Rechelle Parnal use in-depth life histories of low-income men in Philadelphia and Charleston, to study how incarceration not only damages but sometimes strengthens relations between fathers and their children. Imprisoning America then turns to how mass incarceration affects local communities and society at large. Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza use survey data and interviews with thirty former felons to explore the political ramifications of disenfranchising inmates and former felons. Harry Holzer, Stephen Raphael, and Michael Stoll examine how poor labor market opportunities for former prisoners are shaped by employers’ (sometimes unreliable) background checks. Jeremy Travis concludes that corrections policy must extend beyond incarceration to help former prisoners reconnect with their families, communities, and the labor market. He recommends greater collaboration between prison officials and officials in child and family welfare services, educational and job training programs, and mental and public health agencies.

Imprisoning America vividly illustrates that the experience of incarceration itself—and not just the criminal involvement of inmates—negatively affects diverse aspects of social membership. By contributing to the social exclusion of an already marginalized population, mass incarceration may actually increase crime rates, and threaten the public safety it was designed to secure. A rigorous portrayal of the pitfalls of getting tough on crime, Imprisoning America highlights the pressing need for new policies to support ex-prisoners and the families and communities to which they return.

David B. Grusky
Officially over in 2009, the Great Recession is now generally acknowledged to be the most devastating global economic crisis since the Great Depression. As a result of the crisis, the United States lost more than 7.5 million jobs, and the unemployment rate doubled—peaking at more than 10 percent. The collapse of the housing market and subsequent equity market fluctuations delivered a one-two punch that destroyed trillions of dollars in personal wealth and made many Americans far less financially secure. Still reeling from these early shocks, the U.S. economy will undoubtedly take years to recover. Less clear, however, are the social effects of such economic hardship on a U.S. population accustomed to long periods of prosperity. How are Americans responding to these hard times? The Great Recession is the first authoritative assessment of how the aftershocks of the recession are affecting individuals and families, jobs, earnings and poverty, political and social attitudes, lifestyle and consumption practices, and charitable giving.

Focused on individual-level effects rather than institutional causes, The Great Recession turns to leading experts to examine whether the economic aftermath caused by the recession is transforming how Americans live their lives, what they believe in, and the institutions they rely on. Contributors Michael Hout, Asaf Levanon, and Erin Cumberworth show how job loss during the recession—the worst since the 1980s—hit less-educated workers, men, immigrants, and factory and construction workers the hardest. Millions of lost industrial jobs are likely never to be recovered and where new jobs are appearing, they tend to be either high-skill positions or low-wage employment—offering few opportunities for the middle-class. Edward Wolff, Lindsay Owens, and Esra Burak examine the effects of the recession on housing and wealth for the very poor and the very rich. They find that while the richest Americans experienced the greatest absolute wealth loss, their resources enabled them to weather the crisis better than the young families, African Americans, and the middle class, who experienced the most disproportionate loss—including mortgage delinquencies, home foreclosures, and personal bankruptcies. Lane Kenworthy and Lindsay Owens ask whether this recession is producing enduring shifts in public opinion akin to those that followed the Great Depression. Surprisingly, they find no evidence of recession-induced attitude changes toward corporations, the government, perceptions of social justice, or policies aimed at aiding the poor. Similarly, Philip Morgan, Erin Cumberworth, and Christopher Wimer find no major recession effects on marriage, divorce, or cohabitation rates. They do find a decline in fertility rates, as well as increasing numbers of adult children returning home to the family nest—evidence that suggests deep pessimism about recovery.

This protracted slump—marked by steep unemployment, profound destruction of wealth, and sluggish consumer activity—will likely continue for years to come, and more pronounced effects may surface down the road. The contributors note that, to date, this crisis has not yet generated broad shifts in lifestyle and attitudes. But by clarifying how the recession’s early impacts have—and have not—influenced our current economic and social landscape, The Great Recession establishes an important benchmark against which to measure future change.

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