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Book Review – Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics

Jochnowitz, Leona Deborah and Ford, Julia A., Book Review – Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics (December 27, 2016). Available for download at SSRN:

“The 71st and 72nd 2015 and 2016 annual meetings of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans focused on themes of the Politics of Crime and Justice and the Many Colors of Crime and Justice respectively. At these meetings there were important Presidential Plenaries focusing on Mass Incarceration and Sentencing Policies, including recommendations for revising sentencing provisions in laws contributing to over-incarceration. There were discussions about criminal history and other enhancements, and risk assessments. One significant 2015 presidential plenary session which this reviewer attended was a lively debate about “whether the United States can change its current carceral state”, in a forum entitled The American Criminal Justice System: “Caught” or Not?, with chair Candice Kruttschnitt and discussants Daniel Nagin, Marie Gottscalk and Vincent Schiraldi. The discussion focused on issues surrounding the carceral state including sentencing policies and the role of race. Participants commented on whether America’s criminal justice system reflected “The New Jim Crow,” as expressed in the book by Michelle Alexander, or another approach suggested by Gottschalk in her 2015 book, reviewed here, Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics, that the problem of mass incarceration relates to politics, economics, and geography, and goes beyond racial disparity. Gottschalk indicates in her book that lengthy sentencing policies in addition to drug sentencing, like mandatory minimum sentences for gun and violent crimes, three strikes laws, the elimination of community treatment, probation and parole are as important to mass incarceration, and these affect Whites and Blacks alike. The carceral state also impedes reentry with after-effects on jobs, education, housing, voting, and families.”

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