In the wake of the fastest and largest accumulation of inmate populations in modern history, the American prison system is now seen as the archetypal case of “mass imprisonment.” Standard definitions reference prison growth’s supposed Western cultural attributes, its extremity, its rapid expansion, and its disparate impact upon poor minorities (Garland 2001). Embedded within this label, intended to distinguish the phenomena apart from ordinary rates of incarceration, is a normative assessment that prison populations are excessive, unjustified, and demanding of reform. This chapter investigates these implications by surveying the potentials and limitations of alternative punitive institutional arrangements.