Ernest Drucker

A Plague of Prisons

The public health expert and prison reform activist offers “meticulous analysis” on our criminal justice system and the plague of American incarceration (The Washington Post).
An internationally recognized public health scholar, Ernest Drucker uses the tools of epidemiology to demonstrate that incarceration in the United States has become an epidemic—a plague upon our body politic. He argues that imprisonment, originally conceived as a response to the crimes of individuals, has become “mass incarceration”: a destabilizing force that damages the very social structures that prevent crime.
Drucker tracks the phenomenon of mass incarceration using basic public health concepts—“incidence and prevalence,” “outbreaks,” “contagion,” “transmission,” “potential years of life lost.” The resulting analysis demonstrates that our unprecedented rates of incarceration have the contagious and self-perpetuating features of the plagues of previous centuries.
Sure to provoke debate and shift the paradigm of how we think about punishment, A Plague of Prisons offers a novel perspective on criminal justice in twenty-first-century America.
“How did America’s addiction to prisons and mass incarceration get its start and how did it spread from state to state? Of the many attempts to answer this question, none make as much sense as the explanation found in [this] book.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
353 printed pages
Original publication
Publication year
The New Press
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