Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America

Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America

by Jonathan Simon


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In this “impassioned plea for human dignity” (Kirkus Reviews) Jonathan Simon—called “one of the outstanding criminologists of his generation” by Nikolas Rose of the London School of Economics—charts a surprising path to end mass incarceration in America. Using the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Plata on overcrowding in California prisons as his starting point, Simon suggests that incarcerating people on a “mass” scale simply cannot be accomplished in comportment with the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

In an argument that the Los Angeles Review of Books calls “unique,” Simon contends that because we cannot offer meaningful health care, mental health care, or safe and reasonable prison conditions when prisons are run at many times their maximum capacity, “mass incarceration is fundamentally incompatible with humane treatment.”

Todd Clear, former dean of Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, calls Mass Incarceration on Trial “highly readable, stunning,” Slate says the book “could mark the beginning of a new era in American jurisprudence,” and David Cole in the New York Review of Books calls Simon’s work a “sign of the new optimism about criminal justice reform.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620972540
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,285,473
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Simon is the Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. His book Governing Through Crime won the American Sociology Association’s 2008 Sociology of Law Distinguished Book Award. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Inhuman Punishment 1

1 Total Incapacitation: The 1970s and the Birth of an Extreme Penology 17

2 The House of Fear: Dignity and Risk in Madrid v. Gomez 47

3 Engines of Madness: Coleman v. Wilson 73

4 Torture on the Installment Plan: Prisons Without Medicine in Plata v. Davis 87

5 Places of Extreme Peril: Coleman-Plata v. Schwarzenegger and California's Prisons in the Era of Chronic Hyper-Overcrowding 109

6 Dignity Cascade: Brown v. Plata and Mass Incarceration as a Human Rights Problem 133

7 The New Common Sense of High-Crime Societies 155

Notes 173

Index 199

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