reviews

Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire

A tough read

Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire / Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire
Robert Perkinson
Metropolitan Books, 2010, $35

Did HBO’s Oz have you wondering about the origins of prisoner isolation and execution? How the prison industrial complex came to be? Of how the majority of prisoners in this country are young, poor, uneducated black men? The current US prison population exceeds the populations of San Francisco, Boston and Washington, DC combined. Not surprising for a country with the largest prison population in the world.

University of Hawaii at Manoa American Studies professor Robert Perkinson gives us nearly 400 pages of a decade’s worth of prison research, which yields shocking facts and a storied history that links the current US prison model back to the time of slavery, of how the Southern model of retribution and profit beat the Northern model of rehabilitation. Focusing on the state with the largest prison population in the most incarcerated country in the world, readers see how a penal-based plantation system has become socially acceptable in the modern day–such as how black male prisoners still pick cotton under the supervision of a white male on horseback. Texas is number one in supermax isolation, for-profit imprisonment and of course, execution.

A commentary on racial injustice, an ineffective system that eats up billions of dollars and a rebirth of reform, Texas Tough will make those on all parts of the political spectrum reexamine notions of justice.