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Race to Incarcerate

by Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project,The New Press, 1999, 224 pages

Review by Rick Card

If understanding the social, political, and financial issues associated with our nation's massive prison system was a solution in itself, Marc Mauer's book, Race to Incarcerate, would spell the end of the prison industrial complex.

Race to Incarcerate is a statistical history of the America's burgeoning prison population. Mauer discusses the politics leading to our nation's current "get tough" stance on crime, and talks about the effects it is having on society. Unfortunately, his message sometimes seems lost in a litany of statistics.

Mauer writes like an economist, explaining America's massive prison build-up in a relentless series of cold numbers. He seems oblivious to the fact that those numbers represent real people; men and women whose lives hang in the balance. There is no denying the facts spelled out in Race to Incarcerate, but those facts by themselves add little to the ongoing struggle of those forced to endure their meaning.

This book appears aimed at scholars and criminal justice experts-those who see the problems but never feel them. It reiterates the data found in almost every book of its kind, while offering nothing new and not a single proposal for changing our nation's destructive course. But if cold heartless facts are what you seek, this is a perfect book for your shelf.

Mauer writes, "We can try to comfort ourselves by calling prisons 'correctional institutions,' but it is clear that, after two centuries, we as a nation still cage the least fortunate among us to solve our problems." Unfortunately, until we begin discussing an acceptable alternative, the conditions are not likely to change.

Race to Incarcerate is available for $22.95 from The New Press, 450 West 41 Street, New York, NY, 10036.

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