andortho-dox criminologists have tended to view thepolitical aspects of crime and punishment “asboth too simple and too elusive to warranttheir attention” (Scheingold 1998, p. 860). Thestudyofcrimeandpunishmenthasbeenaripe ﬁeld for historians, but their insights andﬁndings have had little bearing on discussionsof the politics of contemporary penal policy in the United States.Political science’s recent neglect of thepoliticsofcrimeandpunishmentissurprising. After all, punishment “is a universal attributeof regimes” and yet is “one of their mostdifﬁcult tasks” (McBride 2007, p. 4). Theproblem of the prison was central to the work of major political theorists of the eighteenthand nineteenth centuries. The role of punish-ment and imprisonment in maintaining socialorder, legitimating the state, and reformingthe soul were key concerns of Mill, Bentham,Kant, Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and FrancisLieber, regarded as the ﬁrst political scientist. Years ago, prisons also transﬁxed the public. American penitentiaries were a prime sight-seeing destination for foreign and domestictourists. By contrast, the contemporary carceral state has been largely invisible. Thecauses of the country’s incarceration boom,and the political, social, and economic conse-quences of this unprecedented experiment inpublic policy, have not been a major focus of social science research or public concern. This is starting to change. In the pastdecade or so, research into the phenomenonof mass imprisonment has produced someoutstanding works in criminology, sociology,and law on the connection between politicsand the rise of the carceral state. Drawing onthiswork,ahandfulofpoliticalscientistshavebegun to shift their gaze to the carceral state.Initially, they focused on its political origins.
There are important exceptions, such as John J. DiIulio, Jr., Tali Mendelberg, Austin Sarat, Stuart Scheingold, Wesley G. Skogan, and James Q. Wilson.
Recently, the wider political consequencesand analytical implications of the carceralstate have become an expanding area of inter-est. There is a growing recognition that theexistence of such a large carceral state em-bedded in a democratic polity has enormousrepercussionsthatreverberatethroughoutthepolitical system and beyond. The metastasiz-ing carceral state has begun to threaten fun-damental democratic institutions, everythingfrom free and fair elections to an accurate andrepresentative census. Furthermore, the riseof the carceral state has helped to legitimate anew mode of “governing through crime” thathas spread well beyond the criminal justicesystem to other core institutions, includingthe executive branch, schools, and the work-place (Simon 2007). The ﬁndings of scholarsof the carceral state are cause for us to re-think claims about a wide range of issues inthe study of American politics, some of themfar aﬁeld from criminal justice: voter turnoutand the “vanishing voter,” the much-vauntedachievements of the US model of neoliberaleconomic development in the 1990s, and thetriumph of the modern Republican Party innational politics, to name just a few.
ORIGINS OF THE CARCERALSTATE AND AMERICAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT
Explanations for the establishment of thecarceral state vary enormously, but many of them do have one thing in common. They adopt a relatively short time frame as they focus on trying to identify what changed inthe United States since the 1960s to disruptits generally stable and unexceptional incar-ceration rate and to bring back capital pun-ishment with a vengeance. The main politicalexplanations include an escalating crime rateand related shifts in public opinion (DiIulio1997; Wilson 1975, p. xvi), the war on drugs(Caplow & Simon 1999, pp. 92–93; Gordon1994;Tonry1995),theemergenceoftheprof-itable prison-industrial complex (Abramsky
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