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Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis [Paperback]

Christian Parenti

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Book Description

Aug. 17 2008
Why is criminal justice so central to American politics? Lockdown America notonly documents the horrors and absurdities of militarized policing,prisons, a fortified border, and the federalization of the war oncrime, it also explains the political and economic history behind themassive crackdown. This updated edition includes an afterword on the War on Terror, a meditation on surveillance and the specter of terrorism as they help reanimate the criminal justice attack. Written in vivid prose, Lockdown America willpropel readers toward a deeper understanding of the links between crimeand politics in a period of gathering economic crisis.

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Review

“In the best tradition of investigative journalism, paced like a fine novel, it carries the authority of meticulous academic research.”—Independent

“Exhaustively documented ... deserves a full hearing from anyone serious about ending the often horrific realities of the criminal justice system.”—Washington Post Book World

“Essential reading for those in law enforcement and politics who are attracted by the rhetoric of zero tolerance.”—Times Literary Supplement

“Terrifying, informative and gripping.”—New York Press

About the Author

Christian Parenti is the author of The Soft Cage and The Freedom, and is currently writing a book on Afghanistan. He is a visiting fellow at the CUNY Graduate School’s Center for Place, Culture and Politics, and his articles appear regularly in The Nation. He lives in New York City.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable study of a failed system Sept. 11 2008
By William Podmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In this remarkable book, American journalist and researcher Christian Parenti shows how the USA's economic and social crisis has produced a huge growth in criminalisation, especially through the war on drugs. He explains how capitalism creates poverty, through both crisis and policy.

From 1966 to 1974, profits fell by 30%. Reagan put interest rates up to 16.4% in 1981, causing a slump - ten million people were unemployed by 1982 and wages were slashed by 8%. Real unemployment for African American men has been more than 25% for three decades.

As Alan Budd, an economic advisor to Thatcher, said, "Rising unemployment was a very desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes." Capitalism creates a surplus population, the reserve army of the unemployed, to drive wages down.

To manage the rising poverty, inequality and unemployment that capitalism causes, the state uses paramilitary forms of repression, segregation and criminalisation. These include paramilitary policing, SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, zero tolerance policing, national surveillance and mass imprisonment. Both crime control and crime keep the people suppressed.

The US imprisonment rate was 100/120 per 100,000 until the 1981 slump. 31% of prisoners are in for property offences, 30% for drug offences, 9% for public order offences, and 29% for violent offences.

Parenti examines the USA's appalling prison industrial complex, which surely provide the rest of us with a model - of how not to run prisons. However, this has not stopped Labour ministers rushing to the USA trying to copy their masters.

Parenti shows how US prison guard unions have often successfully opposed the opening of privatised prisons, which have proved to be even worse than the public ones. Prisons have become ever bigger, with Titan prisons making the problems even bigger as well.

Everyone has to choose whether to blame the system that produces poverty, or to blame the poor. Parenti quotes Lenin, "every state is a `special repressive force' for the suppression of the oppressed class."

Parenti concludes, "My recommendations, as regards criminal justice, are quite simple: we need less. Less policing, less incarceration, shorter sentences, less surveillance, fewer laws governing individual behaviors, and less obsessive discussion of every lurid crime, less prohibition, and less puritanical concern with `freaks' and `deviants'."
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Book on the Police-State Aug. 19 2010
By Drew Hunkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the best book I've ever read that deals with the burgeoning police state in the United States. Parenti ranges far and wide by giving a sound structural analysis as to why police and their paramilitary style tactics have oversaturated our streets.

Economics and politics are often at the crux of most social problems. Parenti understands this and gives the reader an intellectually fascinating and stimulating journey documenting just how our country has been transformed over the last 30 years into a civil libertarian's nightmare.

As Lockdown America demonstrates, the "social dynamite" and "social junk" must be quartered and corralled by the ruling class, otherwise the economic elites would be forced to routinely put down rebellions and riots. Given this reality, the new American prison boom is dealt with by Parenti along with a myriad of other criminal justice (sic) issues.

As mentioned above, the most astute and gratifying aspect of the book is the manner in which it intelligently ties a politico-economic critique into its analysis of criminal justice (sic).

Go beyond nonsense television programs that purport to deal with crime and society by devouring Parenti's magnificent book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expressing Criticism of the Police State is Neither 'Liberal' or 'Conservative' Sept. 10 2012
By KPR - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
That another reviewer could claim this book is 'a left wing rant' and 'against everything to the political right of Karl Marx' is simply, to use another word the reviewer likes, 'Inane'.

In fact Parenti expresses in his book the reality that America is now under a state of siege coordinated in the highest levels of Washington and operated on the ground by what used to be our local police agencies.

Consider this quote in reference to the militarized police in one California city: "If you're 21, male, living in one of these neighborhoods, and you're not in our computer, then there's definitely something wrong," said VCSU officer Paul Boyer. The obvious inference is EVERY single male living in one of the 'highlighted' neighborhoods should, by the time he's an adult, be included (with all his personal information) in a federal database. Any male NOT in the database is so immoral, so criminal, that he's managed to avoid the intense police sweeps. Does that sound 'left wing'? Hardly. In truth, there's no real difference for the man (or boy) on the street living under a fascist or communist dictatorship. That Americans can still be sucked into the phony 'left wing bad, right wing good' (or vice versa) paradigm devised by the political and banking opportunists only shows what a fantastic job television and the media has done to confuse and confound Americans.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little thick, but overall disturbingly informative June 24 2010
By Brian J. Brubaker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you've ever wondered why people go to jail for a little pot, or why the population in jail is 2/3 black or why our prison systems on average are operating at over 150% capacity then this book will intrigue you. It is a little thick of a read but you will learn more crooked things about our legal system than you thought existed. It is sad that we live in "the land of the free" but yet every chance they get they imprison as many people as they can. We live in a fake country with a fake facade. And "Change" isn't gonna come from a new puppet president, it will come from a revolution.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great economic overview of why we lock people away Feb. 14 2014
By Greg L. Peck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had read this author before and was amazed at his in depth research on the topics he explores. Although it has been published several years ago, the background information is essential for anyone's attempt to understand why America has chosen to lock up so many of it 's citizens. You won't really understand the implications of our failed war on drugs until you read this book.

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