skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 81777 Find in a Library
Title: Imprisonment in America - Choosing the Future
Author(s): M Sherman; G Hawkins
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 156
Sponsoring Agency: University of Chicago Press
Chicago, IL 60637
Sale Source: University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This book presents the major arguments for and against increased prison construction as a solution to prison overcrowding and proposes a new policy emphasizing restricted use of imprisonment as a sentence, more inmate programs, and use of construction monies to rehabilitate or replace existing structures.
Abstract: The Nation stands at a crossroad in prison policy because of renewed awareness of prison overcrowding, active judicial intervention in correctional administration, and a new and searching debate over the purposes of incarceration. Arguments reviewed for and against prison construction cover a wide range, but the questions crucial to construction decisions are actually who should be locked up, for how long, and under what conditions. While quantitative measures cannot be the basis for prison policy, they confirm critics' fears that the system is imposing additional punishments ranging from inhumane to illegally cruel, that imprisonment is more expensive than the public can bear, and that alternative solutions such as probation may not even reduce imprisonment rates. Comparisons of British and American correctional practices show that the British have experienced sharp shifts in their prison construction rates and incarceration policies while Americans have steadily built and filled prisons over a 200-year period. Americans appear to have chosen imprisonment over other punishments because it meshes with other values, not simply because there were no convenient alternatives. The fundamental aims traditionally defined for the American criminal justice system are reduction of the number of offenses committed, reinforcement of the legal norms of the society, and provision of services to people whose criminal behavior stems from unmet personal needs. As a historical overview shows, each of these goals has guided American criminal justice at some period in history. At present, crime control is a central focus of the criminal justice system and of imprisonment in particular. To overcome the prison policy dilemma, the authors propose that (1) linkage of sentencing, prison construction, and prison programs should be undertaken; (2) imprisonment should be the punishment of choice to meet the threat of physical violence; (3) new prison space should be built primarily to replace or to upgrade existing facilities; and (4) administrators should retain existing services while beginning new ones that can be truly voluntary and facilitative. The authors emphasize that this system would incapacitate the most dangerous offenders without requiring abandonment of the rehabilitative ideal. A bibliography and index are supplied.
Index Term(s): Correctional reform; Incarceration; Prison construction
Note: Studies in crime and justice.
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.