Book Review: Progressive punishment: Job loss, jail growth, and the neoliberal logic of carceral expansion

Date01 June 2018
Published date01 June 2018
CJR707808 270..276 Book Reviews
problem, be it an economic downturn, poverty, or crime, and hastily responded to this problem by
adopting crude and venturous political strategies. In Chapter 4, the authors then list the specific
policies that have characterized the Punishment Imperative. What stands out in this part of the book
is that the authors do not pick one specific law or policy as the punitive turning point. Instead, they
divide the Punishment Imperative into three distinct phases. The first phase was structural senten-
cing reform, which started in the 1970s. Then came the implementation of different mandatory
sentencing laws in the 1980s, while the final phase was characterized by the sentence lengthening
legislation passed during the 1990s. Through this thorough historical analysis, Clear and Frost
illustrate the complexity of the Punishment Imperative, and they clearly move away from using
simplistic explanations such as the War on Drugs for the American punitive turn. Chapter 5 returns
to the origins of the Punishment Imperative with an exploration of its “social impetus” (p. 114).
Once more, the authors look beyond the simplistic explanation that rising crime rates led to the
Punishment Imperative, some of which appears repetitive from the previous chapters of the book.
The same holds true with Chapter 6, in which the Punishment Imperative is assessed and the social
and racial inequalities it has created are highlighted once more.
While this book shines with details on the punitive policies of the 1970s to the 2000s and the use
of the prison during that time, a reader should not expect a comprehensive history of punishment
within the United States. The book is also not for anybody who is interested in how the United States
compares to other countries in terms of crime and incarceration rates. Still, Clear and Frost’s book is
an important read at a time when criminal justice reform is imminent. The reform proposals in the
final chapter of the book (Chapter 7) are especially insightful, as they demonstrate that criminal
justice reform must go beyond focusing on the nonviolent drug offender and must encompass
broader sentencing reform that will shorten prison sentences for the violent offender as well. The
authors capture this central...

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