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Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline, and Transformation in Postwar American History

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    The Journal of American History
    Heather Ann Thompson
    December 1, 2010

    By the close of the twentieth century the United States had incarcerated more people than any other country in the world, and the nation’s social, economic, and political institutions had become inexorably intertwined with the practice of punishment. Historians, however, have not yet considered what impact the rise of a massive carceral state might have had on the evolution of the later postwar period. Heather Ann Thompson argues that such an examination of the later twentieth century is crucial if scholars are to understand fully the dramatic transformations that occurred after the civil rights sixties, including the origins of urban crisis, the decline of the American labor movement, and the rise of the Right.

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