Sharon Dolovich, Exclusion and Control in the Carceral State, 16 Berkely J. Crim. L. 259 (2011).
The idea of incarceration is not self evident. One can speak of prisons in ancient Greece and Egypt, as well as in medieval Europe, but the largely private nature of the prisons, the arbitrary imposition of penalties and of their length, and the lack of oversight or regard for prisoners’ welfare makes the use of the word prison seem out of place in such contexts. Besides, incarceration was not the primary method of punishment in the classical and medieval world. Banishment, shame, public displays of punishment, fines, and outright executions were regarded as better suited than prisons in making the point that crime will not be tolerated.
The modern era gave us prisons – hierarchical, rational, rule-bound bureaucratic institutions. And with it, a bargain was struck, as Sharon Dolovich writes in her fascinating account of the history and development of the idea of exclusion and control in American prisons. The bargain, according to Dolovich, involves the state’s ability to isolate those who transgress the law and then to ensure that such persons will be kept “apart from society for the duration of their sentences.” (P. 274).
The problem, Dolovich notes, involves the limits and the character of confinement. Why, in the 1990s, did the United States turn to two policy choices, life without parole (LWOP) and the Supermax? What were the evils policymakers in the 1990s were combating? Continue reading "Life in Prison"