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NCJ Number: 206798 Find in a Library
Title: Why are we so Punitive? Some Observations on Recent Incarceration Trends
Author(s): Randall G. Shelden
Corporate Author: Ctr on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
United States of America
Date Published: 2004
Page Count: 17
Sponsoring Agency: Ctr on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
San Francisco, CA 94103
Sale Source: Ctr on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
40 Boardman Place
San Francisco, CA 94103
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article considers the “extreme punitiveness” exercised in America, with a focus on how this punitiveness has caused the criminal and juvenile justice systems to continually expand to the detriment of America’s young women.
Abstract: The United States is the only western democracy to exercise the death penalty and it has the highest imprisonment rate in the world, with the most significant prison population increases occurring since the mid-1980’s, when the “war on drugs” began to affect prison and jail populations. Women offenders have experienced the sharpest increase in prison population rates, with female incarceration rates increasing by over 600 percent between 1975 and 2000. The author also examines the fact that the modern prison system has been described as a “ghetto or poorhouse” reserved for the uneducated, the poor, and minority members. Increasing numbers of African-American’s in the country’s prison system has led some to describe the American prison system as the “New American Apartheid.” The built-in class and racial biases of many sentencing structures are examined, along with the link between the war on drugs and the increase of African-Americans in the prison system. Also examined are the ways in which the dominant conservative philosophy and religious fundamentalism in the United States has influenced the punitive nature of the country. Deterrence is discussed as a punitive philosophy based in the creation of fear. Other social and political factors are also considered as contributing to the extreme punitiveness of the United States, including rising crime rates, economic and social disruption, postmodern angst, and populist punitiveness. Finally, the impact of the ever-growing reach of the juvenile justice system on girls and women is examined. Girls are overwhelmingly sanctioned for status and “technical” offenses and during the 1990’s alone, the number of girls sent to public juvenile institutions increased by nearly 50 percent.
Main Term(s): Criminal justice system reform; Juvenile justice reform
Index Term(s): Criminal justice ideologies; Incarceration; Juvenile detention rates
Note: Downloaded September 9, 2004.
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