Foucault traces the history of the prison system and the fundamental change in punishment that took place in the seventeenth century from retributive punishment of criminals, 'supplice,' to the rehabilitation of delinquents. Foucault is concerned with this change as it demonstrates something pervasive and not just exclusive to the prison system--normalization, or socialization. All the silly little things done in schools, for instance, you will see in quite a different light after reading this book. It's one of those books that--well, at the risk of sounding supremely cornball, will open your mind. All mind-opening books are painful, though, and this is definitely a painful read, mainly thanks to Foucault's _terrible_ writing style. Apparently he wrote it in two days straight with the aid of way too much coffee. (This is partly the translator's fault--other translator's version are a [slight] improvement, and when Foucault wrote in English he did a better job than any of his translators. Slightly better, that is.) Be prepared for sentences within sentences within sentences within sentences within sentences, none of which are marked off by parentheses or dashes. Foucault uses commas very, very lavishly, as some sort of all-purpose punctuation mark, and shies away from periods as if they were the Plague. Eventually, you get used to it, though, and the content is actually worth it.