Locked Up: A History of the U.S. Prison System

Overview

In the 1700s, New England colonists used public humiliation, torture, and hanging to punish moral crimes like kissing on a Sunday or skipping church. Jails were filled with rats and disease, and prisoners had to pay for food and blankets. Yet jails didn't turn out to be much of a deterrent. The number of crimes exploded as the population increased and cities grew larger. Over the centuries, American prison reformers have tried to find a way to end crime once and for all. From solitary confinement and the electric...

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Overview

In the 1700s, New England colonists used public humiliation, torture, and hanging to punish moral crimes like kissing on a Sunday or skipping church. Jails were filled with rats and disease, and prisoners had to pay for food and blankets. Yet jails didn't turn out to be much of a deterrent. The number of crimes exploded as the population increased and cities grew larger. Over the centuries, American prison reformers have tried to find a way to end crime once and for all. From solitary confinement and the electric chair to group counseling and parole, the U.S. prison system has been reinvented again and again, but have these reforms really made a difference? Discover the true history of crime and punishment in the United States in Locked Up.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara Carroll Roberts
Any young person who reads this book will almost certainly want to stay as far away from the inside of a U.S. prison as possible. From the stocks and pillory of the 18th century, to the complete solitary confinement of the 19th century, to the prison riots and minimum-sentencing laws of the 20th century, the history of the U.S. prison system presented in this book is a chronicle of wretched facilities, abusive treatment and extreme over-crowding, broken only by periodic attempts at "reform" that do not work. This is not a happy picture. And despite the author's attempt to cover a few small outreach or work-experience programs practiced at several prisons today, one does not finish this book with a sense of hope for a better future for U.S. prisons, nor better outcomes for their inmates. This is not to imply that this book is written with a condemning tone; on the contrary, Edge does a very good job of explaining the historical points of view behind our evolving penal system and highlights the many genuine efforts reformers have made to improve conditions and outcomes. Young readers will find many issues to think about in these pages, making this an excellent choice for class discussions or book clubs. Overall, this is an attractive book, with many photographs and period illustrations, and a clean, uncluttered design. Backmatter includes a time line, chapter notes, bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and an index. This book is part of the "People's History" series. Reviewer: Barbara Carroll Roberts
School Library Journal

Gr 7-10

Using primary resources, photographs, and solid research, Edge has written a well-organized and engaging history of our prison system. Beginning with colonial times and moving chronologically to present-day issues and concerns, she touches on relevant topics that students can relate to and understand. In describing colonial punishments, Edge uses Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter as one of her examples. She also includes quotes from people who were incarcerated at various stages of our country's development. Photographs of an assortment of facilities as well as well-known prisoners appear throughout. In addition, high-level vocabulary words that appear in quotes are defined within the text. While this book can serve as an excellent resource for reports, it is an interesting read as a stand-alone text.-Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822587507
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Series: People's History Series
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 788,647
  • Age range: 10 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura B. Edge attended the University of Texas and studied educational concepts and philosophies at the American Institute of Foreign Study in London, Paris, Rome, and Athens. She has been a middle-school teacher and a computer programer and trainer. She is the author of a biography of Andrew Carnegie, among other books, and lives in Kingwood, TX with her husband and two sons.

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