Synopses & Reviews
The path away from Americas prison crisis may lead through the jail. While there may be many positive aspects of jails as sites of confinement, especially when compared with the prisons of mass incarceration, Irwins analysis pointed to features that could make the new jail-based version of mass incarceration even worse. The local nature and relative obscurity of jails means that the level of legal review and due process obtainable in prisons through the persistent efforts of civil rights lawyers may be even harder to maintain in jails. The historic focus of jails on what Irwin called rabble management” threatens to undermine the opportunity presented by the present prison crisis to rethink Americas overreliance on confinement of all kinds (whether prisons, jails, or immigration detention centers). If so, it is vital that those of us committed to reversing the destructive effects of mass incarceration on American democracy and social equality expand our concern and our research from prisons to the jails that may replace them. The re-publication of John Irwins The Jail: Managing the Underclass in American Society is a most timely aid to that mission. From the foreword by Jonathan Simon
Combining extensive interviews with his own experience as an inmate, John Irwin constructs a powerful and graphic description of the big-city jail. Unlike prisons, which incarcerate convicted felons, jails primarily confine arrested persons not yet charged or convicted of any serious crime. Irwin argues that rather than controlling the disreputable, jail disorients and degrades these people, indoctrinating new recruits to the rabble class. In a forceful conclusion, Irwin addresses the issue of jail reform and the matter of social control demanded by society. Reissued more than twenty years after its initial publication with a new foreword by Jonathon Simon, The Jail remains an extraordinary account of the role jails play in Americas crisis of mass incarceration.
"Irwin is a skilled and brilliant ethnographer and the chapters are full of rich, subjective data clearly linked to human misery, and set in a context of powerlessness." Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
"Irwins discussion of the dynamics of jail life makes this a very important book that should be read by all students of social control." American Journal of Sociology
About the Author
John Irwin (1929 - 2010) was known internationally as an expert in the American prison system. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California Berkeley and taught as a professor at San Francisco State University. He is the author of The Felon (UC Press), Scenes, Prisons in Turmoil, It's About Time: America's Imprisonment Binge (with James Austin), Lifers: Seeking Redemption in Prison and The Warehouse Prison: Disposal of the New Dangerous Class.
Table of Contents
List of Tables
1 Managing Rabble
2 Who Is Arrested?
7 Rabble, Crime, and the Jail