Covering 150 years of American history, Robert Perkinson’s "TEXAS TOUGH: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire" (Metropolitan Books; on sale: March 16, 2010) is a sweeping account of race, politics, and imprisonment from slavery to the present, with an emphasis on the country’s most locked-down, politically influential state: Texas. With its expansive territory that stretches from South to West, its racially mixed demographics, and its uniquely turbulent history, Texas has played the vanguard role in America’s punitive revolution: from assembly-line executions to isolation supermaxes, from prison privatization to sentencing juveniles as adults. While previous histories have emphasized the North’s rehabilitative approach to criminal justice, this is but a fraction of the story. It is the retributive and profit-driven regime of the South that has ultimately triumphed, and a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric has become the template for the nation.
By Robert Perkinson (Metropolitan Books - March 2010)
The United States of America, land of the free, imprisons a greater share of its people than any other country, about 1 out of every 100 adults. On any given day, some 2.4 million people are incarcerated, more than the populations of Boston, D.C., and San Francisco combined. But despite the magnitude of imprisonment, the story of how one state came to dominate criminal-justice practices nationwide has never been told.
Most provocatively, Perkinson argues in TEXAS TOUGH that just as convict leasing and segregation emerged in response to Reconstruction, so today’s mass incarceration, with its vast racial disparities, must be seen as a backlash against civil rights. A Southern style of punitive justice has become increasingly dominant as the nation’s politics have swung to the right. Based on a decade of archival and legal research—plus hundreds of interviews with prisoners, guards, activists, judges, and politicians—TEXAS TOUGH illuminates for the first time the origins of America’s prison juggernaut. At stake is not just the fate of those living behind bars but the vitality of the country’s democratic ideals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Perkinson, left, is a professor of American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His writing has appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, and Boston Review, among others. Texas Tough is his first book. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. TEXAS TOUGH: The Rise of America’s Prison Empireby Robert Perkinson ISBN-10: 0-8050-8069-8. ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8069-8$35.00, March 16, 2010Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company
Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire
Robert Perkinson, Author and Professor of American History at University of Hawaii