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Texas Tough: The Rise of America's…

Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire

by Robert Perkinson

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Although the American prison system is based (somewhat) on the principle of rehabilitation, it still retains, Perkinson says, powerful elements of one of its original influences: retribution. By way of explanation, he examines the country’s harshest, largest penal system, that of Texas, the state that reigns supreme in the punishment business. (In one city, Huntsville, almost half its population is in prison and another fifth works in jobs related to keeping them there.) Perkinson explores the history of the state and its penal system, showing how retribution, at least as much as rehabilitation, played a key role in the system’s evolution; and, by extension, he sheds light on the evolution of penal systems across the country. The American penal system, he argues, is very much a product of its southern influences (and, as a sure-to-be-controversial corollary to that, the racial imbalance of its prisoners is a kind of backlash against the civil rights movement). A fascinating and often deeply troubling book. --David Pitt ( )
  WayCriminalJustice | Apr 8, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A history of incarceration in Texas from the early establishment of Texas to present day, definitely a powerful subject to be discussed. As a state famous for its tough on crime mentality learning about how Texas has handled itself and handled its prisoners would be a fascinating case study in criminal justice.

Though some may dislike how Texas handles itself today, it can not be denied that they haven't always worked to protect their law-abiding citizens from crime and violence. Overall, this is an excellent well-researched book that provides a fascinating picture of how justice has been implemented by the Lone Star State, take it with wrinkles and all and you will learn a lot. ( )
  cutiger80 | Feb 3, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Texas's criminal justice system gets thrust into the spotlight every few years for various reasons--our death penalty, the crime labs, sentencing issues...Perkinson takes one aspect of the criminal justice system, the penal system, and traces its history in the context of the rest of the country. Many of the issues surrounding prisons on a national level can be examined in Texas over a fairly long history. This book allows the reader to begin a longer examination of the prison systems in America because of his careful research and citations. This would make an excellent book to accompany a criminal justice course, though it doesn't make for good bedtime reading. ( )
  kaelirenee | May 8, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Texas Tough by Robert Perkinson is a very well documented book about the history of incarceration in Texas, the South and the rest of the United States. If you are writing about prisons and looking at the history of housing prisoners in the US and Texas this is a good book and a good reference. I agree that there should be some reforms in who goes to prison but some of Perkinson's ideas are not realistic given the current state of the economy.
At least Perkinson lets the reader know well in advance of where he is coming from with his opinions and how and why he feels the way he does. Which I found interesting and allowed me to understand how is views were shaped. ( )
  foof2you | Sep 12, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting, well researched book. It does a great job of considering societal and historical context. It can get a bit graphic at times, but how could it not? It will inspire you to do more of your own research (like going to the current Texas Department of Corrections website) because you can't help but realize that this is a work in progress. It will make you angry, sad, frustrated, and incredibly disappointed. The one complaint I have about the book is that it doesn't really offer the counterargument or opposing views. I really think that it weakens your own argument when you don't address the counter. At the same time, though, it tries to remind you that, even in little ways, progress has been made.

Although this book focuses on Texas (and Southern states), it is very easy to imagine it being applicable to other states.
  esnanna | Jun 24, 2010 |
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By documenting relentlessly, almost without counterpoint, the inhuman­ity that has defined Texan and Ameri­can incarceration, “Texas Tough” leaves us wondering, despairingly, whether there is any way our society can rise to the godlike responsibility that suffuses prison air, whether there is any way we can rehabilitate our prisons so that we can reliably reform the convicts we lock inside.
With so many depressing facts and figures, this is not an easy book to plow through. But anyone interested in America's prison system should read it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805080694, Hardcover)

A vivid history of America’s biggest, baddest prison system and how it came to lead the nation’s punitive revolution

In the prison business, all roads lead to Texas. The most locked-down state in the nation has led the way in criminal justice severity, from assembly-line executions to isolation supermaxes, from prison privatization to sentencing juveniles as adults. Texas Tough, a sweeping history of American imprisonment from the days of slavery to the present, shows how a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric became the national template.

Drawing on convict accounts, official records, and interviews with prisoners, guards, and lawmakers, historian Robert Perkinson reveals the Southern roots of our present-day prison colossus. While conventional histories emphasize the North’s rehabilitative approach, he shows how the retributive and profit-driven regime of the South ultimately triumphed. Most provocatively, he argues that just as convict leasing and segregation emerged in response to Reconstruction, so today’s mass incarceration, with its vast racial disparities, must be seen as a backlash against civil rights.

Illuminating for the first time the origins of America’s prison juggernaut, Texas Tough points toward a more just and humane future.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the prison business, all roads lead to Texas. This sweeping history of American imprisonment shows how a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric becomes the national template--and how that injustice can change.

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