The graph reproduced below (see Figure 9.1) offers a disturbing picture of the process of mass-imprisonment that has been taking place in the last three decades in the greatest of Western democracies. At the outset of the twenty-first century, the U.S. prison population has reached the historically unprecedented number of 2.3 million individuals, confined inside a carceral archipelago of almost five thousand penal institutions. With an incarceration rate of 756/100,000, the ‘productivity’ of the American penal system is unmatched by any other country (democratic or not) in the world.1