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Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire Paperback – October 26, 2010
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A searching history of American incarceration, and an important reckoning . . . an alarming indictment, built on passionate and exhaustive research.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Compelling... A gripping history lesson and a fascinating read.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“Perkinson makes a convincing case that mass incarceration is the most pressing civil rights issue today… Essential reading if the nation ever hopes to move in a different, less-punitive and more-rehabilitative direction.” ―The Boston Globe
“Takes readers on an eminently horrifying journey into America's own heart of darkness.” ―Columbia Journalism Review
“A rich narrative… Perkinson directs the clear light of reason onto the Lone Star State.” ―The Morning News
“An intensively researched, disturbing history of American penology… A convincing and discouraging argument that the Texas model of a profit-making, retributive prison system has become the national template.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Sheds light on the evolution of penal systems across the country… A fascinating and often deeply troubling book.” ―Booklist
“Texas Tough is a raw, compelling assessment of racial disparity and southern culture as they have determined the massive over-incarceration of African Americans. If you want to understand how politics, not crime control, governs today's prison population, read this book. Anyone concerned with justice and fairness should place this on their must-read list.” ―Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and author of When Law Fails
“This book is a Texas Death Match between David (Robert Perkinson) and Goliath (the American prison system). Goliath is armed, violent, massive, and hard to bring down, but David has a sling and a book full of smooth stones taken from the brook of history.” ―Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History
“Texas Tough is a powerful study of the Texas prison system, its profit-driven administration, its history and its critical impact on the U.S. national prison system. Based on superb research that traces the racial assumptions of today's criminal system to the ideas of race developed during American slavery, Texas Tough is a gracefully written work of wide-ranging, impressive historical knowledge.” ―James Oliver Horton, author of Landmarks of African American History
“A brilliant and riveting account of the nation's most important prison system. Perkinson describes its growth with extraordinary care given to the daily lives of the inmates, the institutional structures, and the philosophy of punishment (including the death penalty) that seem immune to innovation and reform. Texas provides a perfect lens to study America's exploding prison problems today, and Perkinson in an ideal guide. As both an original history of punishment and a critique of current issues of race, violence, and incarceration, Texas Tough is in a class by itself.” ―David Oshinsky, author of "Worse Than Slavery": Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice
“The United States maintains the largest penal system in the world. With his powerful story of the prisons of Texas, Robert Perkinson shows how we came to this desperate condition. It is a story we all need to understand and there is no better place to comprehend the origins and evolution of this national tragedy.” ―Edward Ayers, author of The Promise of the New South
“Texas Tough is a gripping work of history, but its most important lesson is about the country we live in today. We cannot fulfill America's promise of liberty and justice until we address the crisis of mass incarceration. Every social justice advocate and policy maker in the nation needs to read this book.” ―Ann Beeson, Executive Director, Open Society Institute
“Texas Tough is the most important history of crime and punishment in America since David Rothman's The Discovery of the Asylum. It will transform our understanding of not only crime and punishment but also the nature of historical change in the United States, which is not driven, as we believe, by progress or even the idea of progress, but by regress. Robert Perkinson shows us that the past continuously structures and constrains every effort to re-imagine and reform the present. This is no small achievement.” ―Corey Robin, author of Fear: The History of a Political Idea
“Texas Tough shows that the politics of race has always governed the politics of punishment and explains why our criminal justice system is the frontline of America's human rights struggle in the twenty-first century. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to build a stronger America and put these decades of over-incarceration (and under-education) of Americans behind us.” ―Benjamin Todd Jealous, President, NAACP
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Top customer reviews
Brilliant, thought-provoking, shameful and damning in its full scope,
I am a conservative Texan who has spent years visiting prisoners in Texas prisons; have studied Texas prison history and taught courses about it; and have grieved for the plight of many inmates who are victims of an overzealous punishment system. I had long struggled to understand why the system is so harsh and uncaring. Texas Tough filled that void.
Perkinson is a master of the adjective - producing lively and readable text. But he is also extremely thorough. Every fact and quote is well documented and gives a cohesive picture. Read with a magic marker - you will see much you want to use in your re-thinking process. Rather than attempting to dispute his disparaging facts or their selection, focus upon your own answers to two questions of "What have we done to our own humankind?" And, "What can I do to help change it?"