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Ironies of Imprisonment

Ironies of Imprisonment

June 2004 | 256 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

From the Foreword

"Michael Welch's book is an invitation to think. It is an invitation to grow intellectually and critically, as a consumer of crime policy and an observer of the American scene. Written by a scholar who has dedicated his work to uncovering the hidden ironies of formal crime policy, this is a collection of essays of depth and significance."

-Todd R. Clear, Distinguished Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Praise for Ironies of Imprisonment:

"The American correctional system is too often misshaped by a toxic mixture of ideology, anti-intellectualism, wishful thinking, and structural interests. Michael Welch uses his substantial critical skills to illuminate how these various factors intersect to create policies and practices that produce, in the end, more injustice and less public safety. His sobering analysis deconstructs the rhetoric used to justify mass imprisonment and its unanticipated, disquieting consequences."

-Frank Cullen, University of Cincinnati

"Michael Welch has written a book which anyone who is looking for an alternative to conventional and conservative approaches to prisons and punishment should read. Welch provides the groundwork for the development of a penology which engages critically with the growing tensions and ironies of imprisonment."

-Roger Matthews, Middlesex University

Ironies of Imprisonment examines in-depth an array of problems confronting correctional programs and policies from the author's singular and consistent critical viewpoint. The book challenges the prevailing logic of mass incarceration and traces the ironies of imprisonment to their root causes, manifesting in social, political, economic, and racial inequality.

Key Features

  • A compelling Foreword written by Todd E. Clear, an internationally recognized leader in the field of criminal justice.
  • Chapters open with illuminating real-life vignettes and end with provocative review questions.
  • The author's knowledgeable and dynamic voice provides a consistent perspective on key issues such as the war on drugs, the war on terror, prison violence, capital punishment, health care, and the prison industry.
  • Up-to-date presentation of pertinent subject matter, including chief developments in research and theory.
  • Discussion of the problems facing corrections in a post-September 11th world.

Unique and accessible, this book promises to stimulate spirited discussion and debate over the use of prisons. Ironies of Imprisonment is recommended reading for students in corrections classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels in sociology, criminology, and criminal justice departments. In addition, it can be used in conjunction with a core text in courses on policy, theories of punishment, and social problems. The book will also be of interest to a general audience interested in reading about incarceration.

Michael Welch is the author of numerous articles and several books on the subject of punishment and social control, including Punishment in America (1999), Flag Burning: Moral Panic and the Criminalization of Protest (2000), and Detained: Immigration Laws and the Expanding I.N.S. Jail Complex (2002). He has correctional experience at the federal, state, and local levels. Welch received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Texas, Denton and is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University.

By Todd R. Clear, Distinguished Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
1. Introduction
2. Discovery of the Penitentiary
3. Critical Penology
4. War on Drugs and Just War Theory
5. Health Care Crisis Behind Bars
6. Reproducing Prison Violence
7. Ironies of Capital Punishment
8. War on Terror and the Misuse of Detention
9. Punitive Profit
10. Confronting Corrections

Good book which deals well with some of the really fundamental weaknesses of the contemporary use of imprisonment. This text allows students to be able to make sense of and understand some of the inherrent contradictions between the supposed 'aims' of imprisonment and indeed some of the realities emerging out of the widespread use of imprisonment across society.

Mr Robert Jones
Centre for Criminology, University of South Wales
December 11, 2014

Not comprehensive enough for my corrections course.

Dr Ingrid McGuffog
Criminal Justice Dept, Suny Brockport
November 13, 2013

A key text which examines imprisonment with a critical eye. Students have used it sporadically this year and we have put it on the essential reading.

Miss Laura Firth
Public Services, Runshaw College
January 17, 2013

An excellent, very readable text on imprisonment in the United States. and the many important issues it raises For British students of penology, this work prompts them to think critically about what we can learn - for good or more frequently, bad - from the American experience, and to understand the wider context within which developments such as prison privatization must be understood. Highly recommended.

Dr Alisa Stevens
School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent
June 27, 2012
Key features
There are quite a few edited books of readings that look at the issues surrounding the prison industry, but few sole-authored efforts have the coherency and continuity that Welch provides.

This book has broader coverage than the few comparable titles, along with insert boxes, chapter-opening vignettes, and end of chapter summaries and discussion questions.

Micheal Welch is well-known in the field for his creative, insightful analyses of the U.S. corrections industry. His original voice will be appreciated and stimulating for instructors and students alike.

For instructors

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