This Is My Jail: Local Politics and the Rise of Mass Incarceration

Univ. of Pennsylvania. (Politics and Culture in Modern America). Nov. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9781512823493. $39.95. LAW
In this history of urban incarceration, Newport (history, Univ. of Connecticut) demonstrates that mass incarceration in the U.S. started in local jails has persisted in racializing crime and repressing prisoners’ rights. Focusing on the city of Chicago (and Illinois’s Cook County where Chicago is located) as a leader in shaping nationwide jail reform, the book lays out an expansive history of urban jails as regulatory institutions and exposes racist ideologies that it argues have fueled jails’ changing nature and functions. The author explains that what grew into the Cook County Department of Corrections opened in the 1830s to control immigrants, political radicals, and people of color. By 2020, Chicago’s jails were processing about 10 million inmates annually, 75 percent of them Black people and 16 percent Latinx. Newport makes the case that Cook County’s huge jail populations (and those in other large U.S. cities) arose specifically from the inequities and politics of urban life. The book is meticulously documented, tightly argued, and highly readable (consisting of an introduction, six chapters, and an epilogue) and center the struggle for criminal-justice reform.
VERDICT This is an essential read for anyone interested in the U.S. carceral state, the failed philosophies and practices of even well-intentioned reforms, and the causes and effects of segregation, discrimination, and exclusion that link homes, schools, police, judges, and juries in the violence of racial repression that is the United States’ criminal injustice system.
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