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Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis

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Lockdown America documents the horrors and absurdities of militarized policing, prisons, a fortified border, and the war on drugs. Its accessible and vivid prose makes clear the links between crime and politics in a period of gathering economic crisis.


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Lockdown America documents the horrors and absurdities of militarized policing, prisons, a fortified border, and the war on drugs. Its accessible and vivid prose makes clear the links between crime and politics in a period of gathering economic crisis.

30 review for Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    I like this book because it paints a viable economic story behind the explosive growth of the prison system in the last 35 years. Parenti argues that neoliberal development (i.e. the global exportation of manufacturing labor to countries that are cheaper for corporations) has resulted in massive job loss amongst working class men, and particularly African American males, making them superfluous to the labor needs of a post-industrial society. This means that for the first time in US history, the I like this book because it paints a viable economic story behind the explosive growth of the prison system in the last 35 years. Parenti argues that neoliberal development (i.e. the global exportation of manufacturing labor to countries that are cheaper for corporations) has resulted in massive job loss amongst working class men, and particularly African American males, making them superfluous to the labor needs of a post-industrial society. This means that for the first time in US history, the labor of Black men is no longer useful; indeed, it has become redundant. Consider 40% unemployment amongst young Black men in most inner cities, which underscores the point. From this point of view, prisons serve to contain a potentially threatening underclass who could create significant social dislocation if left unemployed and free. Nixon and Johnson were afraid by African, Puerto Rican and American Indian liberation movements, which resulted in the militarization of police as a domestic counter-insurgency force. War on Drugs policies helped build the juridical framework for mass racialized arrests, prosecutions and incarceration making the US have the most, and highest percentage of prisoners in the world. Anyway, the basic point is that prisons serve to contain the class of people who have become unnecessary and therefore threatening to the economic status quo. So, remember, if you're a middle/upper class beneficiary of the modern economy, the prison system exists to prop up the vast and grinding inequities, which would be challenged if not for the mass incarceration of the economy's victims. After all, kids aren't getting rich selling drugs. But its better than no job. Doesn't it make more sense that those with criminal records can't get jobs. It turns out that they have criminal records (as a population) because there are no jobs in the first place. In fact, the prison system adds value to an unemployed person by making them the commodity that is produced by the prison industrial complex.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Grace M.

    this shit will just get you so mad about the rising police state and the prison industrial complex. Read about the development of Zero Tolerance Policies, 3-strike laws, human warehousing, and the role of Corrections Officers Unions in policy puppetry. No wonder all the cashmoneys ain't going to the damn edumacashen system.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Fasching-Gray

    If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, where does the road paved with pure evil lead? There are more scholarly books out there that explain how Republicans with help from the Democrats cut social services, killed off the good paying jobs, let the police off the leash, blamed everything on drugs and then made sure everyone knew that actually meant people of color, and then built huge prisons so that we could all get raped and get AIDS and lose our minds and join racist gangs and then If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, where does the road paved with pure evil lead? There are more scholarly books out there that explain how Republicans with help from the Democrats cut social services, killed off the good paying jobs, let the police off the leash, blamed everything on drugs and then made sure everyone knew that actually meant people of color, and then built huge prisons so that we could all get raped and get AIDS and lose our minds and join racist gangs and then be released. Parenti takes a more journalistic, impressionistic path, but the story is by now well-known. He uses some colorful language, but it is still pretty staid compared with say Bobby Seale. And when he talks about the old 60s War on Poverty/Great Society stuff, it is hard to tell where he is explaining the enemy's reasoning and where he is maybe agreeing with it. I found this all pretty rough going, actually. Some of it was very familiar ground, like the horror that was Bratton and Giuliani NYC, and he even gets a bit into the war in my old neighborhood (a story well told in War in the Neighborhood). So it's not only an unpleasant subject but also a little close to (my old) home. This book is supposed to make you angry, and if it doesn't then you are one very zen cat, man. But I think he kind of stops short... he recommends "less" as in less prison, less policing, less laws. He warns that harm reduction and other such programs just expand the net of the justice system and should only be brought in once the more malicious aspects of the american gulag are trimmed back. Sounds good, but I think I'd rather skip right to prison abolition.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Citazen Serwer

    Excellent book outlining the Prison industrial complex. Exhaustive research and lots of fact based information. I wish Parenti would write a new chapter in this effort as much has changed since the early 2000's and much of his research dealt with the 1990's. I love that he tracks the economic flow of wealth from the late 60's and how that also plays a large roll in what is considered crime. If you want too understand a bit about why we have 2.3 million prisoners in the US and how the justice sys Excellent book outlining the Prison industrial complex. Exhaustive research and lots of fact based information. I wish Parenti would write a new chapter in this effort as much has changed since the early 2000's and much of his research dealt with the 1990's. I love that he tracks the economic flow of wealth from the late 60's and how that also plays a large roll in what is considered crime. If you want too understand a bit about why we have 2.3 million prisoners in the US and how the justice system is plainly racist, I strongly suggest Lockdown America.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Burton-Rose

    The most well-considered and lasting of the late '90s, early '00s prison movement books.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    A great book that historicizes the rise of the prison industrial complex tracing how politicians created a crisis that fueled more and more policing (and the militarizing of police forces with the creation of SWAT teams and surveillance technology) which in turn helped boost the demand for more (ever increasingly private) prisons. The book was published in 1999 and while the information doesn't feel dated - in fact it seemed more relevant than ever - I couldn't help but wonder how the situation A great book that historicizes the rise of the prison industrial complex tracing how politicians created a crisis that fueled more and more policing (and the militarizing of police forces with the creation of SWAT teams and surveillance technology) which in turn helped boost the demand for more (ever increasingly private) prisons. The book was published in 1999 and while the information doesn't feel dated - in fact it seemed more relevant than ever - I couldn't help but wonder how the situation in Gitmo and secret prisons around the globe relates to the prison industrial complex at home. Also Parenti argues that prison labor is not behind the prison boom of the 80s and 90s, but others have linked Arizona's SB 1070 to in an increased demand for such cheap/slave labor - which makes me wonder how much has changed in the last 10+ years.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ty

    Every cop is a murderer. All the prisons must burn. If you don't already think so, this book probably won't convince you of that. But you'll sure be damned infuriated. Parenti's thesis is right on: the expansion of prisons and police functions to manage the surplus population created by the capitalist crisis of the 1970's. Police and prisons use terror as a tool to control the poor who are of little use to capital. I unfortunately read the first edition rather than the updated one, and some of the Every cop is a murderer. All the prisons must burn. If you don't already think so, this book probably won't convince you of that. But you'll sure be damned infuriated. Parenti's thesis is right on: the expansion of prisons and police functions to manage the surplus population created by the capitalist crisis of the 1970's. Police and prisons use terror as a tool to control the poor who are of little use to capital. I unfortunately read the first edition rather than the updated one, and some of the police/prison abuses seem relatively tame compared to the horrors of the 21st century and other research. Parenti calls for reform, rather than abolition. But this is consistent with the book merely critiquing police and prisons under neoliberal capitalism. The book is amazing at everything it pretends to be.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Parenti gives an expansive overview of the historical forces that have played a role in leading us to the mass incarceration crisis that we have today in "Lockdown America." I particularly appreciate the devotion of full chapters to discussion of the complexity of specific issues within the prison-industrial complex, such as segregated housing units, militaristic policing, and prison physical and sexual violence. In these chapters, Parenti illustrates the problematic nature of each issue in and Parenti gives an expansive overview of the historical forces that have played a role in leading us to the mass incarceration crisis that we have today in "Lockdown America." I particularly appreciate the devotion of full chapters to discussion of the complexity of specific issues within the prison-industrial complex, such as segregated housing units, militaristic policing, and prison physical and sexual violence. In these chapters, Parenti illustrates the problematic nature of each issue in and of itself, but also demonstrates their roles as crucial dynamics interacting to perpetuate our flawed "criminal justice" system. It is my hope that Parenti authors a follow-up book or updated version of the book, as circumstances have changed in many ways since its publication. I would be interested in Parenti's take on the current situation and thoughts on future directions of the country.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Rhodes

    A detailed account on why it is right and just to call police officers thugs and pigs. I have not finished it yet, but Parenti's thesis is this: There was a profit crisis at the end of sixties and in the beginning of the seventies. Corporations weren't sating their greed enough. Hence, the war on labor which resulted in a bunch of idle people. And this idle population needed to be controlled lest it engage in organized class warfare. Hence the need to militarize the police force. There's more to A detailed account on why it is right and just to call police officers thugs and pigs. I have not finished it yet, but Parenti's thesis is this: There was a profit crisis at the end of sixties and in the beginning of the seventies. Corporations weren't sating their greed enough. Hence, the war on labor which resulted in a bunch of idle people. And this idle population needed to be controlled lest it engage in organized class warfare. Hence the need to militarize the police force. There's more to this story. Gentrification of neighborhoods prompted the need to do a cleansing of undesirables. But as I write this I am tired and blotto drunk. I cannot write any more. I promise to write more later.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea

    One of the most cogent and accessible reads on the prison industrial complex that I've read to date. Parenti is awesome! This book discusses the rise of the current police state, the unending delegation of power to police, the horrors of prison, the reality behind the phrases "law and order" and "quality of life" among others, how capitalism needs a "criminal" class of people in order to keep functioning et al. I whipped through this book. It's a great resource and I highly recommend it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    i read this for a class called "race, ethnicity, and power in the united states" and was very pleased with the content. i think i read it all in three days because i had a paper to write but aside from my procrastination the detailed descriptions of INJUSTICE in the prison industrial complex was fascinating and captivating. i actually used the word "riveting" without knowing the new york times said that too, and the quote was right on the front cover.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Excellent historical analysis of the prison industrial complex. Parenti details the way the state and corporations have colluding in increasing criminalization and control of poor Black and Latino communities, plus the shift in management of prisons to the private sector.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    awesome!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    365.973 P2285 2008

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lenny

    If you love law enforcement and police stories, try reading this one, excellent book as i'm a huge fan of these sorts of books.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

    Great introduction to learning about the prison reform movement. Highly recommend.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Arron

    Brutal and scary

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hunter

    Terrifying.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sidik Fofana

    SIX WORD REVIEW: I'm radical...but this, too radical?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sean Estelle

    I don’t know which was more terrifying while reading this - the sheer brute violence of the statistics Parenti brings to vivid life over and over again; or the fact that the analysis is so good and so of the moment, despite the fact that the book was written nearly a quarter century ago. Either way, an absolute must read (with a serious set of caution signs attached for the descriptions of sexual violence and state brutality). “Even if prison building created no Keynesian stimulus, and there were I don’t know which was more terrifying while reading this - the sheer brute violence of the statistics Parenti brings to vivid life over and over again; or the fact that the analysis is so good and so of the moment, despite the fact that the book was written nearly a quarter century ago. Either way, an absolute must read (with a serious set of caution signs attached for the descriptions of sexual violence and state brutality). “Even if prison building created no Keynesian stimulus, and there were no private prisons to profit from locking up the poor, and if prison labor were abolished - in other words, if all directly interested parties were removed from the equation - American capitalism would still, without major economic reforms, have to manage and contain its surplus populations and poorest classes with paramilitary forms of segregation, containment, and repression.”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Blü

    Very interesting account of why Mass Incarceration began. He thoroughly evaluates why it serves the people in power by allowing them to keep people under control.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Valeda

  23. 4 out of 5

    Iain Mccurdy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kira

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Harless

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paris

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Johnny Wimmer

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