By Sasha Abramsky

During this dramatic exposé of U.S. penitentiaries and the groups round them, Sasha Abramsky reveals that prisons have dumped their age-old target of rehabilitation, frequently for political purposes. the hot “ideal,” unknown to so much americans, is a punitive mandate marked through a force towards vengeance.

Surveying this country of affairs—life sentences for nonviolent crimes, appalling stipulations, the expansion of personal prisons, the remedy of juveniles—Abramsky asks: Does the vengeful impulse ennoble our tradition or demean it? What can turn into of people that are quarantined for years in a violent way of life? California’s 3 moves legislations typifies the politics that take advantage of the grief of victims’ households and our fears of violent crime. Brilliantly researched and compellingly advised, American Furies indicates that the ethos of “lock ’em up and throw away the key” has huge, immense social charges.

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Additional info for American Furies: Crime, Punishment, and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment

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At Eastern State in Philadelphia, the intimations of torture, deprivation of food to rule breakers, and guards abusing their power reached a crescendo barely five years after the penitentiary was opened, leading to state legislative hearings in December 1834. “However guilty they [prisoners] may have been, and however just may be the sentence of the law under which they suƒer, the feelings of our nature revolt at the infliction of torture not authorized by a judicial tribunal,” wrote one legislator who participated in the hearings, in a book published anonymously.

It was, in fact, a Democratic town, part of the hardscrabble coal belt of southwestern Pennsylvania that once played host to radical unions and rabble-rousing class warriors. When I visited, however, it was resolutely apolitical, its good folk mainly concerned with the annual fair; the annual bet (the prize, a hat) between the mayor and one or another celebrity as to whether it would rain on Rain Day; and the myriad local beauty pageants (one recent teen queen had made good by moving to New York and getting a job with Donald Trump).

In reality, only one member of each team was a volunteer; the other was a paid actor. ” Then the experimenter explained that the learner was going to face a series of word-combination questions. Whenever the learner got an answer wrong, an electric shock would be administered, ascending, in 15-volt increments, from a starting shock of only 15 volts all the way up to 450 volts. Learners were taken into a room and strapped into an electric chair, where their wrists were painted with a paste (designed, said the experimenter, to keep the subjects’ skin from burning) and electrodes were attached to their bodies.

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