BEHIND BARS: The Story of Prisons in America by Richard--Ed. Kwartler

BEHIND BARS: The Story of Prisons in America

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This sampler of current thinking in penology leads to one unequivocal conclusion: there is no consensus among the ""experts"" on anything pertaining to prisons, parole, deterrence, recidivism, or punishment. As public clamor for ""getting criminals off the street"" mounts, reformers of all stripes are claiming that ""rehabilitation"" is bankrupt. Beyond that, the question ""What is to be done?"" elicits a cacophony of opinions. Kwartler, editor of Corrections Magazine, finds that reformers today divide between the ""abolitionists"" who argue that ""the greatest single cause of crime in this country is the prison system,"" and the ""pragmatists"" who want to abolish the idea of jail as ""treatment"" and adopt fixed sentences with no parole. Community-based halfway houses, ""contract parole,"" and furlough systems are seen variously as the way of the future and as dangerous experiments; numerous administrators point out that participation in group therapy, vocational training, etc., is no index of how ex-cons will perform once released. Kwartler looks at the controversial inmate lawsuits which in recent years have expanded prisoner rights, improved living conditions and medical care, and relaxed reading censorship; ironically, many officials see little evidence that model prisons produce less recidivism than hell holes like Angola or San Quentin. Beyond pointing to the ""tumultous"" state of corrections, Kwartler draws no conclusions of his own, but certainly this articulate presentation of issues and philosophies will give laymen a vivid sense of the awful disarray of both state and federal prison practices and functions.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1977
Publisher: Random House