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In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens-and as a legacy-of an "ugly and violent" racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because "we have become increasingly punitive." According to Loury, the "disproportionately black and brown" prison populations are the victims of civil rights "opponents" who successfully moved the country's race dialogue to a "seemingly race-neutral concern over crime." Loury's claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that "even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear." Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an "inert ballast" in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has "ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people"; and Harvard philosophy professor Shelby urges citizens to "break with Washington's political outlook on race." The group's respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.