Download This Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Boom and Bust of American Imprisonment

33 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2017 Last revised: 11 Nov 2017

Brandon L. Garrett

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: November 6, 2017


We are teetering at the edge of a mass incarceration binge. Lawmakers are reconsidering overly harsh criminal punishments. At the same time, eight years later, people are still furious that elite criminals and CEOs avoided criminal punishment in the wake of the last financial crisis. Many have complained that no Wall Street bankers went to jail. What do these conflicting tendencies mean? In this book review, first, I discuss the new book by business professor Eugene Soltes titled "Why They Do It," which explores psychological research on risk-taking by corporate criminals. Second, I discuss law professor Sam Buell's "Capital Offenses," an engaging book that examines why it is so challenging to punish business crimes due to the structure of the economy, corporations, and our federal criminal justice system. Third, I turn to law professor Darryl Brown's "Free Market Criminal Justice," which explores the role of free market ideology in the divide in American criminal justice. I conclude by exploring the implications of these arguments and this research for mass incarceration as well as corporate accountability at the high and low ends of our criminal justice system — we are finally turning a corner on mass incarceration in this country, and the problems and solutions that these authors identify partly explain why and whether better things or new fears lie around that corner. We are at a crossroads. We need voices of reason like Soltes's, Buell's, and Brown's, today more than ever.

Suggested Citation

Garrett, Brandon L., The Boom and Bust of American Imprisonment (November 6, 2017). Texas Law Review, 2017; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2017-64. Available at SSRN:

Brandon L. Garrett (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views