The Big House

The Big House

Image and Reality of the American Prison

Book - 2009
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"The Big House" is America's idea of the prison--#65533;a huge, tough, ostentatiously oppressive pile of rock, bristling with rules and punishments, overwhelming in size and the intent to intimidate. Stephen Cox tells the story of the American prison--its politics, its sex, its violence, its inability to control itself--and its idealization in American popular culture. This book investigates both the popular images of prison and the realities behind them#65533;: problems of control and discipline, maintenance and reform, power and sexuality. It conveys an awareness of the limits of human and institutional power, and of the symbolic and iconic qualities the "Big House" has attained in America's understanding of itself.

Publisher: New Haven : Yale University Press, c2009.
ISBN: 9780300124194
0300124198
Characteristics: p. cm.

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waltlockley
Sep 26, 2016

Well, to be positive, The Big House is most valuable on two specific prisons in Michigan and Illinois, Jackson and Joliet, where the author seems to done some research, and also valuable for mentioning a lot of incidents and situations that seem so incredible you want to look them up. Somewhere else. So as a listicle in book form it works pretty good.

Generally though Cox seems unashamed to try to draw history out of Broderick Crawford movies, makes a ton of dubious assertions and shallow characterizations and snarky side comments, ignores some pretty basic facts when it doesn't suit his Big House thesis, and talks about prison reform through a lens of binary partisan politics. As a book of interesting prison trivia, good. As useful history, better to look somewhere else.

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