A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America Hardcover – Aug 30 2011
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Todd Clear, Dean of the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice
A towering achievement, A Plague of Prisons does something rare and valuable: it provides a new way of looking at, thinking about, and analyzing old and familiar data, thereby creating fresh insights into and understanding of a social catastrophe.
Ira Glasser, Former Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union
Drucker brings the tools of epidemiology, the informed perspective of a social critic, and the graceful language of a natural writer to illuminate the plague of incarceration that is crippling poor and primarily minority urban communities, and to make a clear, cogent call for reform.
Jamie Fellner, Senior Advisor, U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch
A seminal book by a truly gifted scholar. Read and weep and then pass along this important work to everyone who has a stake in reforming the contemporary U.S. criminal justice systemwhich is to say, all of us.
Stephen Flynn, Ph.D., President, Center for National Policy
A careful, colorful, and much needed examination of the causes and consequences of the epidemic of incarceration in the United States with enormous relevance for anyone concerned about public health, criminal justice, and public policy.
Jim Curran, Dean, Rollins School of Public Health and Co-Director, Emory Center for AIDS Research
Ernie Drucker has long been a leader in new ways of thinking about issues of crime and drugs. He’s helped us to imagine a true public health approach to these problems.
Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project and author of Race to Incarcerate
About the Author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Just like one of the greatest movies, in the first few chapters, Drucker used the historical events to illustrate the scientific way to track sources of diseases and mapping the places and the best way to eliminate the spread of such ..... of the sinking Titanic, the outbreak of the cholera in London and how the outbreaks and public health responses, and on (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome) illustrate basic epidemiological method--mapping outbreaks, tracing vectors, identifying the demography of the afflicted--in the interest of preventing disease transmission.
Later in the book, Drucker illustrated the specific health costs of incarceration in the wake of New York's highly punitive Rockefeller drug laws in 1973. Using empirical data to prove his argument, he used the public health concepts of "years of life lost" and "disability-adjusted life years," measurements that epidemiologists use to quantify the relative magnitude of disasters. He showed that blacks and minorities who live in poor neighborhoods have developed chronic diseases which means, he argues, the drug laws are public health threat. Simply put, he concluded that year of life lost to drug laws are "three times greater than those lost in the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks."
Finally, Drucker identified that there are solutions to such disaster, giving the example of how the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War helped convert public view of nuclear weapons to a global threat. A Plague of Prisons' is a joint venture that conveys an important message that scientists, scholars and civil rights advocates must work together to show the total impact of mass incarceration in our society.
But the rhetoric of punishment rings hollow. Something more is going on. We send so many folks to prison, and often for such trifling reasons. Things have reached a point in which it makes sense to speak of mass incarceration. Is this best thought of as an epidemic?
Ernest Drucker thinks so. He brings the skills of an epidemiologist to bear on why, with five percent of the world's population, the United States incarcerates 25 percent of the world's prisoners. His answer is simple: the war on drugs accounts for the explosive growth during the past forty years of the prison population.
The statistics are familiar enough. Young black men, young Hispanic men, face a far greater chance of landing in prison than to their white counterparts, and usually for drug offenses. We build prisons at an astonishing rate. Some 2.5 million Americans are currently behind bars. Millions more are on probation.
Drucker's brief work supports from a novel perspective the need for reform of drug laws. We need treatment, not prison; legalization, not the creation of an incarcerated nation.
This is a well-written and even entertaining book about a depressing subject. I was dubious about whether Drucker could pull the analysis off. He did, but, I suspect, I was an easy cell. Mass incarceration is a national disaster.