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It's About Time: Americas Imprisonment Binge

It's About Time: America's Imprisonment Binge, by John Irwin and James Austin, Wadsorth Publishing Co. (1994), provides an excellent critical analysis of the American prison system and makes a very strong case against America's excessive reliance on the use of imprisonment as the main answer to the nation's crime problem.

The authors rely on scholarly studies of imprisonment rates, official crime statistics, studies of criminal justice reforms and the author's own tri-state study of male prisoners. Irwin and Austin went inside prisons in Illinois, Nevada and Washington and personally interviewed prisoners. They examine what kind of people are behind bars and for what crimes--with many surprising results.

Beginning with a review of America's growing correctional industrial complex, touching on the politics of the fear of crime, and the costs of the imprisonment binge, and what has been accomplished, It's About Time skillfully defends the premise that prisons don't work. They also cover such topics as public misperception about who goes to prison, the effects of warehousing on prisoners, coping with violence, and the reality of lockup. An entire section of the book is devoted to the topics of release and parole, and the difficulty of "making it" in the outside world when carrying the stigma of felon.

Irwin and Austin conclude their argument against imprisonment in part by laying out the true cost of incarceration. They discuss not only the financial cost, but also the social costs. They carefully support the point that few people truly understand just how expensive prisons are to build and operate.

I personally believe that if every single prisoner in the United States were to persuade ten of their friends and family to read this ground-breaking book, we might just be able to contribute to the halt of the imprisonment binge. I urge you to order this book through your library, or have somebody send you a copy, and read it cover to cover.

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