In This Article Prisons and Jails

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Theoretical Perspectives on Corrections
  • The Imprisonment Experience
  • Jails and Short-term Confinement
  • Juvenile Corrections
  • Women and Prison
  • Prison Violence
  • Correctional Treatment
  • Capital Punishment
  • Imprisonment Trends
  • Prisoner Reentry and Recidivism
  • Consequences of Incarceration

Criminology Prisons and Jails
Beth M. Huebner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 August 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0037


Prisons and jails have been a central part of society for many centuries, and a substantial body of work has been amassed on theories of punishment. Correctional institutions serve many functions but generally serve to manage men and women who have been accused or convicted of criminal offenses. There is considerable variation in the nature and purpose of correctional institutions. Traditionally the study of corrections focused on the prison; however, the research on corrections now includes the study of a range of institutions and community sanctions. In addition, there has been a specialization of research in this area to explain unique experiences of inmates, including that of women and juveniles. The literature listed in this entry summarizes the prominent works in this area and provides sources of reliable data on jails and prisons.

General Overviews

A number of texts on corrections and imprisonment have been developed. Clear, et al. 2009 provides a broad survey of a range of topics on corrections and is appropriate as an introductory text for students. The Latessa and Holsinger 2005 reader includes annotated articles and could be used as a stand-alone text for undergraduate courses or as a supplementary text for a graduate course in corrections. For advanced graduate seminars, Morris and Rothman 1997 provides an excellent historical and theoretically informed discussion of imprisonment in the United States and abroad. Tonry and Petersilia 1999 is a compilation of a series of original review articles on topics ranging from imprisonment trends to violence in prison and inmate medical care. For a recent discussion of the future of corrections, Tonry 2006 provides an accessible anthology of works produced by top correctional scholars. Given the dramatic growth of incarceration in the past two decades, it is equally important to review electronic texts that include contemporary statistics. Pew Center on the States 2008 is an important illustration of imprisonment trends and is appropriate for established researchers and students new to the area.

  • Clear, Todd, George F. Cole, and Mike Reisig. 2009. American corrections. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth.

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    Broad and accessible overview of prisons, jails, and community corrections. Suitable for undergraduate courses.

  • Latessa, Edward J., and Alexander Holsinger, eds. 2005. Correctional contexts: Contemporary and classical readings. 3d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Anthology of annotated classic and contemporary readings in corrections; includes materials on the history of corrections, institutional treatment, working in prison, and release from prison. Appropriate text for an advanced undergraduate class or an introduction to imprisonment in a graduate course.

  • Morris, Norval, and David J. Rothman, eds. 1997. The Oxford history of the prison: The practice of punishment in Western society. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Edited collection of essays designed to trace the history of imprisonment in the United States, Great Britain, Europe, and Australia. Augmented with articles on jails, detention of juveniles and women, and the political prisoner.

  • Pew Center on the States. 2008. One in 100: Behind bars in America 2008. Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trusts.

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    Provides a comprehensive narrative on the growth of imprisonment in the past two decades. Includes a number of cogent graphs; an excellent introduction to imprisonment trends for an undergraduate student. Available online.

  • Tonry, Michael, ed. 2006. The future of imprisonment. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Edited volume of essays written by top penal scholars. Using a historical lens, the contributors provide theoretically rich analysis of current imprisonment policy. This sophisticated anthology is appropriate for policy makers and scholars alike.

  • Tonry, Michael, and Joan Petersilia, eds. 1999. Crime and justice: A review of research. Vol. 26, Prisons. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Comprehensive edited volume with articles from top scholars in the field. Covers research on trends in prison population growth, correctional treatment, prison misconduct, health care in prison, outcomes of prison for families and children, and parole.

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