The prison, the darkest region in the apparatus of jus-
tice, it is the place where the power to punish, which
no longer dares to manifest itself openly, silently …
function[s]. —Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
THIS BOOK EXAMINES whether a bigger prison system, such as the one we have built in America to control crime, necessarily makes for a better prison system. Many things make a prison system better. Being bigger is not necessarily one of them.
Over the past three decades, the United States has built the world's largest prison system. This system is ten times larger today than it was in the mid-1970s. This book examines why America's prison system has grown so large and what the consequences are of having such a big system. From a philosophical and policy perspective, we want to discern the reason(s) for placing offenders in prison, and what goals we hope to accomplished by this practice. Various data can be used to determine if these goals are indeed being met. In the chapters that follow, these data will be employed to assess whether imprisonment reduces crime, one of its widely stated goals.
Outside of philosophy, policy, and politics, what other factors have helped shape the emergence of America's big prison system? Specifically, this book examines whether economic factors influence the volume of imprisonment in American society. Undertaking such an examination requires discussing how broad economic processes such as the decline of the industrial and rise of the service economy, or smaller trends such as the privatization of prisons, have affected the U.S.