Big Prisons, Big Dreams: Crime and the Failure of America's Penal System

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Overview

The American prison system has grown tenfold since the 1970s, but crime rates in the United States have not decreased. This doesn't surprise Michael J. Lynch, a critical criminologist, who argues that our oversized prison system is a product of our consumer culture, the public's inaccurate beliefs about controlling crime, and the government's criminalizing of the poor.

While deterrence and incapacitation theories suggest that imprisoning more criminals and punishing them leads to a reduction in crime, case studies, such as one focusing on the New York City jail system between 1993 and 2003, show that a reduction in crime is unrelated to the size of jail populations. Although we are locking away more people, Lynch explains that we are not targeting the worst offenders. Prison populations are comprised of the poor, and many are incarcerated for relatively minor robberies and violence. America's prison expansion focused on this group to the exclusion of corporate and white collar offenders who create hazardous workplace and environmental conditions that lead to deaths and injuries, and enormous economic crimes. If America truly wants to reduce crime, Lynch urges readers to rethink cultural values that equate bigger with better.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813541860
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Series: Critical Issues in Crime and Society Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 274
  • Sales rank: 1,481,059
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Michael J. Lynch is a professor in the department of criminology at the University of South Florida.
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Table of Contents


Preface     ix
Introduction: Big, Dark Secrets, and America's Prison System     1
Prisons and Crime     20
The Growth of America's Prison System     49
Raising Questions About America's Big Prison System     82
Explaining Prison Growth in the United States: The Materialist Perspective     110
Prison Effects: Who Gets Locked Up     146
The Imprisonment Binge and Crime     173
The End of Oil and the Future of American Prisons?     203
A Consuming Culture     220
Notes     229
References     241
Index     253
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