A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America

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The New Press, 2011 - Social Science - 226 pages
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When Dr. John Snow first traced an outbreak of cholera to a water pump in the Soho district of London in 1854, the field of epidemiology was born. Taking the same public health approaches and tools that have successfully tracked epidemics of flu, tuberculosis, and AIDS over the intervening one hundred and fifty years, Ernest Drucker makes the case that our current unprecedented level of imprisonment has become an epidemic—a plague upon our body politic.

Drucker, an internationally recognized public health scholar and Soros Justice Fellow, spent twenty years treating drug addiction and another twenty studying AIDS in some of the poorest neighborhoods of the South Bronx and worldwide. He
compares mass incarceration to other, well-recognized epidemics using basic public health concepts: “prevalence and incidence,” “outbreaks,” “contagion,” “transmission,” and “potential years of life lost.”

He argues that imprisonment—originally conceived as a response to individuals’ crimes—has become mass incarceration: a destabilizing force that undermines the families and communities it targets, damaging the very social structures that prevent crime.

Sure to provoke debate, this book shifts the paradigm of how we think about punishment by demonstrating that our unprecedented rates of incarceration have the contagious and self-perpetuating features of the plagues of previous centuries.
 

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Contents

1 An Epidemiological Riddle
1
The Ghost Maps of Dr Snow
11
The Epidemiology of a New Disease
19
4 A Different Kind of Epidemic
37
New Yorks Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Prison Pump
50
The Relative Impact of Mass Incarceration
68
Modes of Reproduction
78
The Long Tail of Mass Incarceration
108
Collateral Damage to Children and Families of Prisoners
141
A Public Health Model
163
Notes
191
Index
213
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

Ernest Drucker is a scholar in residence and senior research associate at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He is professor emeritus of family and social medicine at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine and adjunct professor of epidemiology at Columbia University s Mailman School of Public Health. He is an NIH-funded researcher, editor-in-chief of the international Harm Reduction Journal, a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Global Health, and a Soros Justice Fellow. He is also a founder and former chairman of Doctors of the World/USA. He lives in New York City.

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