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American Prisons and Jails: An Encyclopedia of Controversies and Trends

ABC-CLIO. 2018. 793p. ed. by ed. by Vidisha Barua Worley & Robert M. Worley. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781610695008. $198. REF
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According to the Worleys (criminal justice, Lamar Univ.), Americans comprise five percent of the world’s population but almost one-quarter of its prison inmates. In addition, the editors estimate that $80 billion is spent annually on jails in this country. As the title indicates, this work’s focus is on U.S. correctional systems and practices, although there is a scattering of information on foreign prisons. In an excellent introduction, the editors provide a brief sketch of the historical development of U.S. prisons, succinctly detailing the reasons for the country’s rise in incarceration rates, from 96 prisoners per 100,000 citizens in the early 1970s to the current 698 prisoners per 100,000. Besides expected entries on famous inmates and prisons, there are articles on contemporary issues central to prison reform, including compassionate release, mandatory sentencing guidelines, and inmate education. Photos and numerous tidbits enhance the content. Resources for further reading and an extensive. bibliography are a boon to researchers. Although none of the entries are longer than a few pages, the information is accurate and substantial. Especially important, the editors and contributors remain balanced while dispelling assumptions and perceptions about the American criminal justice system.
VERDICT There is a great need for trustworthy material such as this given the human and financial resources devoted to penitentiaries and the thousands of lives they affect on a daily basis. A strong starting point for researchers and readers

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