Why “Astounding Punitiveness” In the U.S. Will Be Hard To Remedy


A new book by the University of Pennsylvania’s Marie Gottschalk, “Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics,” “intends to tell us not just what has and is going wrong, but why it is, has been, and will be so difficult to remedy,” says Stephen Lurie, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Lurie cites Gottschalk’s “deep rigor and discerning eye for misperceptions and common reductions of complex problems.”

Gottschalk “doesn't show lenience to the pet theories of the left or right,” Lurie says. The author is critical of “the newly popular idea among fiscal conservatives (and hopeful liberals) that mass incarceration is simply too financially costly to continue.” She also does not embrace the view of Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow that emphasizes the racial nature of mass incarceration, its descent from centuries of subjugation of African Americans, and its formalization through the War on Drugs and criminalization of petty offenses. Rather, Gottschalk says that “the common theme over time is the astounding punitiveness — the excessive sentences and enforcement — with which the United States approaches justice.”

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