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States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons

Edited by Joy James. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000). 352 Pages

Reviewed by Mumia AbuJamal

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky once opined that the nature of a civilization could be discerned by examining its prisons. If that is so, James has assembled a wide variety of essays that are reflecting an America that is a deeply repressive society.

The essays, penned by activists, scholars, lawyers and scholaractivists,

address issues such as the death penalty, racism in the socalled Criminal Justice system, the prison industrial complex, how gender impacts confinement, political repression, and the role of the police, from a number of perspectives that are uniformly critical of the existing regime.

Contributors include those known and unknown, like the son of the late, executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Robert Meeropol, scholaractivist Angela Y. Davis, antideath penalty lawyers Steve Hawkins and Dan Williams, scholar Manning Marable, journalist Salim Muwakkil, PuertoRican activist Jose Lopez, the late environmentalist Judi Bari, and others.

The essays strike this writer as cogent, serious, and well thought out. They are also occasionally remarkably brilliant in their analysis, critique and proposed solution to a given social problem.

Some writers document a social reality, and by so doing illustrate an underlying pattern of systemic inequality, as did Marc Mauer director of the Sentencing Project. In an essay entitled "Young Blacks and the Criminal Justice System," Mauer details the racial disparity that is at the very heart of the prosecution and sentencing of drug offenses:

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