This thoughtful examination of incarceration in the United States from the 1980s to the current time offers for consideration a transparent and humane correctional model for the future. Author Helen Clarke Molanphy employs an interdisciplinary approach encompassing sociology, penology, memoir, philosophy, and history.

Featuring the work of researchers as well as penal theorists of the Enlightenment era, literati who have written about crime and punishment, inmates, social justice activists, and journalists, the author incorporates first-hand interviews with participants in the landmark Ruiz v. Estelle lawsuit, which found incarceration in the Texas Department of Corrections to be cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Synthesizing lessons learned from years of studying the American prison system through contact with inmates, correctional authorities, legislators, and prisoner advocates, Molanphy offers a narrative of crime and punishment, degradation, and dehumanization, but with hope pointing to future correctional reforms. The book not only catalogs human rights abuses and the pain inflicted by corrupt penal systems, but also provides a roadmap for an enlightened society to conceive of ways to reduce mass incarceration and provide humane treatment of inmates.

This reflective survey of the pervasive issues that afflict the prison industrial complex offers a compelling analysis of the past and possible future of the U.S. penal system for students of criminal justice, corrections, penology, and the sociology of punishment.

Part 1. The Texas Department of Corrections;  1. Texas Control Model;  2. Jailhouse Lawyers;  3. Texas Prison Administrators;  4. Ruiz v Estelle;  5. Texas Today;  Part 2. Demographics of American Prisons;  6. The Unschooled;  7. The Young and the Old;  8. The Female Inmate;  9. Poor People of Color;  10. Political Prisoners;  Part 3. Addressing Major Problems in Corrections;  11. Guard Brutality and Corruption;  12. Wrongfully Convicted;  13. Treatment of the Mentally Ill Inmate;  14. Prison Labor;  15. Privatization of Corrections;  Part 4. Efforts To End Mass Incarceration;  16. Legislative Changes;  17. The Supreme Court and the U.S. Justice Department;  18. Reducing Recidivism;  19. Alternative Models;  20. Restorative Justice;  Epilogue