Cruel and Unusual The Culture of Punishment in America Anne-Marie Cusac
- Publication date:
- 03 Mar 2009
- 320 pages: 229 x 152 x 29mm
The statistics are startling. Since 1973, America's imprisonment rate has multiplied over five times to become the highest in the world. More than two million inmates reside in state and federal prisons. What does this say about our attitudes toward criminals and punishment? What does it say about us?This book explores the cultural evolution of punishment practices in the United States. Anne-Marie Cusac first looks at punishment in the nation's early days, when Americans repudiated Old World cruelty toward criminals and emphasized rehabilitation over retribution. This attitude persisted for some 200 years, but in recent decades we have abandoned it, Cusac shows. She discusses the dramatic rise in the use of torture and restraint, corporal and capital punishment, and punitive physical pain. And she links this new climate of punishment to shifts in other aspects of American culture, including changes in dominant religious beliefs, child-rearing practices, politics, television programmes, movies, and more.America now punishes harder and longer and with methods we would have rejected as cruel and unusual not long ago. These changes are profound, their impact affects all our lives, and we have yet to understand the full consequences.
Anne-Marie Cusac is assistant professor, Department of Communication, Roosevelt University, and a contributing writer to The Progressive. For her work as a journalist she has received the George Polk Award and on three occasions the Project Censored Award.
"This book is a bracing indictment of our culture''s obsession with pain and revenge. In chronicling the history and current reality of punishment in America, Anne-Marie Cusac exposes our collective loss of compassion to damning effect."--Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States"--Sister Helen Prejean
Cathy A. Frierson
V. Lee Hamilton