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Book Review

Texas tough : the rise of America's prison empire

Perkinson, Robert

A most disturbing yet very interesting book, Texas Tough, the Rise of America's Prison Empire traces the development of two types of criminal discipline. "The North's rehabilitative approach and the South's emphasis on retribution and profit, and shows how an unforgiving, racially divisive model ultimately triumphed." It is an extensively researched history which demonstrates that "In the prison business, all roads lead back to Texas."

A pioneer in criminal justice severity—from mandatory sentencing to prison privatization, from supermax isolation to "assembly line" executions—Texas is the most locked-down state in the most incarcerated country in the world. The book's author, a historian and professor of American studies at the University of Hawaii, takes you on a sweeping tour of southern justice from slavery to the present. Along the way he explains how this punishment colossus came into being and how "a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric became a template for the nation."

By Patricia Norwood
Submitted: December 5, 2012