The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society

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The word "prison" immediately evokes stark images: forbidding walls spiked with watchtowers; inmates confined to cramped cells for hours on end; the suspicious eyes of armed guards. They seem to be the inevitable and permanent marks of confinement, as though prisons were a timeless institution stretching from medieval stone dungeons to the current era of steel boxes. But centuries of development and debate lie behind the prison as we now know it--a rich history that reveals how our ideas of crime and practices ...
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Overview


The word "prison" immediately evokes stark images: forbidding walls spiked with watchtowers; inmates confined to cramped cells for hours on end; the suspicious eyes of armed guards. They seem to be the inevitable and permanent marks of confinement, as though prisons were a timeless institution stretching from medieval stone dungeons to the current era of steel boxes. But centuries of development and debate lie behind the prison as we now know it--a rich history that reveals how our ideas of crime and practices of punishment have changed over time.
In The Oxford History of the Prison, a team of distinguished scholars offers a vivid account of the rise and development of this critical institution. Penalties other than incarceration were once much more common, from such bizarre death sentences as the Roman practice of drowning convicts in sacks filled with animals to a frequent reliance on the scaffold and on to forms of public shaming (such as the classic stocks of colonial America). The first decades of the nineteenth century saw the rise of the full-blown prison system--and along with it, the idea of prison reform. Alexis de Tocqueville originally came to America to write a report on its widely acclaimed prison system.
The authors trace the persistent tension between the desire to punish and the hope for rehabilitation, recounting the institution's evolution from the rowdy and squalid English jails of the 1700s, in which prisoners and visitors ate and drank together; to the sober and stark nineteenth-century penitentiaries, whose inmates were forbidden to speak or even to see one another; and finally to the "big houses" of the current American prison system, in which prisoners are as overwhelmed by intense boredom as by the threat of violence. The text also provides a gripping and personal look at the social world of prisoners and their keepers over the centuries. In addition, thematic chapters explore in-depth a variety of special institutions and other important aspects of prison history, including the jail, the reform school, the women's prison, political imprisonment, and prison and literature.
Fascinating, provocative, and authoritative, The Oxford History of the Prison offers a deep, informed perspective on the rise and development of one of the central features of modern society--capturing the debates that rage from generation to generation on the proper response to crime.

A team of distinguished scholars offers a vivid account of the rise and development of the prison, from biblical antiquity to the present, that paints a gripping portrait of the social world of prisoners over the centuries. Strikingly designed with over 100 illustrations, including 16 color plates.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Editors Norris and Rothman, a law professor and history professor, respectively, put together a team of scholars to trace the rise and development of the prison and the changes that have occurred over the centuries. The first section details the history of the prison, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome. Although providing insight as to how criminals were punished through the ages, it primarily focuses on the rise of the prison in England and the United States. Unfortunately, there are several flaws with this section. While it explains prison development in continental Europe, its coverage is too sketchy. Also, there is little mention of penal reforms of the last 20 years. The second part, which deals with themes, is stronger. It discusses the development of Australia from the prison colony, women in prison over the ages, juvenile delinquency, development of the local jail, and political prisoners. The volume's other strengths include the extensive chapter bibliographies and the illustrations throughout. This book deserves to be on the shelves of academic libraries and, yes, prison libraries. (Index not seen.)-Michael Sawyer, Clinton P.L., Ia.
Ray Olson
Study of the prison is a fairly new enterprise, editors Morris and Rothman say, and this big book would not have been possible 30 years ago. Prison research has burgeoned so greatly since, however, that a comprehensive history, even of prisons in the West, is beyond the powers of a single author. So Morris and Rothman, who each contribute a chapter, have recruited 12 other scholars to produce an overview of prisons in the U.S., Britain, and, to a far lesser extent, continental Europe. The result consists of eight historical essays and six articles on particular topics in imprisonment, such as detention of juveniles and of women, internment for political reasons, and "The Literature of Confinement." Each article concludes with a bibliographic note directing the interested in further study of its subject. An exemplary historical handbook.
From the Publisher
"Two scholars more qualified to edit such a work do not readily come to mind....Both men are crisp, stylish writers....Well-written and intelligently indexed."—The New York Times Book Review

"An exemplary historical handbook."—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195061536
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/30/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 7.88 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.56 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Editors:
Norval Morris is the Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Criminology at the University of Chicago. His numerous books include The Brothel Boy and Other Parables of the Law and Between Prison and Probation. David J. Rothman is Professor of History, Bernard Schoenberg Professor of Social Medicine, and Director of the Center for the Study of Society and Medicine at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is the author of The Discovery of the Asylum, Conscience and Convenience, and Strangers at the Bedside.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Ch. 1 Prison Before the Prison: The Ancient and Medieval Worlds 3
Ch. 2 The Body and the State: Early Modern Europe 49
Ch. 3 The Well-Ordered Prison: England, 1780-1865 79
Ch. 4 Perfecting the Prison: United States, 1789-1865 111
Ch. 5 The Victorian Prison: England, 1865-1965 131
Ch. 6 The Failure of Reform: United States, 1865-1965 169
Ch. 7 The Prison on the Continent: Europe, 1865-1965 199
Ch. 8 The Contemporary Prison: 1965-Present 227
Ch. 9 The Australian Experience: The Convict Colony 263
Ch. 10 Local Justice: The Jail 297
Ch. 11 Wayward Sisters: The Prison for Women 329
Ch. 12 Delinquent Children: The Juvenile Reform School 363
Ch. 13 Confining Dissent: The Political Prison 391
Ch. 14 The Literature of Confinement 427
Contributors 457
Picture Credits 461
Index 463
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