In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section 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

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Criminology Prisons and Jails
Beth M. Huebner, Morgan McGuirk
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • 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. The nature and purpose of correctional institutions vary considerably. 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, a specialization of research in this area seeks to explain unique experiences of inmates, including that of women and juveniles. The literature listed in this article 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. 2019 provides a broad overview regarding a range of topics on corrections and is appropriate as an introductory text for students. The Latessa and Holsinger 2015 reader is comprised of annotated classical and contemporary articles, appropriate 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 2006 discusses the future of corrections in an accessible anthology of works by top correctional scholars. Finally, the Pew Center on the States 2008 is an important electronic text that includes contemporary statistics illustrating imprisonment trends, and is suitable for either established researchers or new students.

  • Clear, Todd, Mike Reisig, and George F. Cole. 2019. American corrections. 12th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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

  • Latessa, Edward J., and Alexander M. Holsinger, eds. 2015. Correctional contexts: Contemporary and classical readings. 5th ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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