Incarceration American-Style

25 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2009 Last revised: 23 Oct 2009

See all articles by Sharon Dolovich

Sharon Dolovich

University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law

Date Written: October 21, 2009


In the United States today, incarceration is more than just a mode of criminal punishment. It is a distinct cultural practice with its own aesthetic and technique, a practice that has emerged in recent decades as a catch-all mechanism for managing social ills. In this essay, I argue that this emergent carceral system has become self-generating - that American-style incarceration, through the conditions it inflicts, produces the very conduct society claims to abhor and thereby guarantees a steady supply of offenders whose incarceration the public will continue to demand. I argue, moreover, that this reproductive process works to create a class of permanently marginalized and degraded noncitizens - disproportionately poor people of color - who are marked out by the fact of their incarceration for perpetual social exclusion and ongoing social control. This essay serves as the Foreword to a symposium in the Harvard Law & Policy Review addressing the costs of mass incarceration.

Keywords: imprisonment, corrections, administration of criminal justice

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Dolovich, Sharon, Incarceration American-Style (October 21, 2009). Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 3, p. 237, 2009 , UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 09-27, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 1488439, Available at SSRN:

Sharon Dolovich (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

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