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More than 2 million persons occupy America's prisons and jails today -- the highest per capita incarceration rate in U.S. history. With just 6 percent of the world's population, the United States now holds 25 percent of its prisoners. At what social cost do we build and fill more prisons?
In Good Punishment? James Samuel Logan critiques the American obsession with imprisonment as punishment, calling it "retributive degradation" of the incarcerated. His analysis draws on both salient empirical data and material from a variety of disciplines -- social history, anthropology, law and penal theory, philosophy of religion -- as he uncovers the devastating social consequences (both direct and collateral) of imprisonment on such a large, unprecedented scale.
A distinctive contribution of this book lies in its development of a Christian social ethics of "good punishment" embodied as a politics of "healing memories" and "ontological intimacy." Logan earnestly explores how Christians can best engage with the real-life issues and concerns surrounding the American practice of imprisonment.
"James Logan's book is the most sophisticated theological treatment of the prison-industrial complex we have. His superb historical and sociological analysis is informed by his profound Christian commitment. This text is the beginning of a grand vocation in Christian ethics!"
Duke Divinity School
"In providing the best assessment available of the current penal practices of our society, Logan has also done nothing less than provide an imaginative, constructive theological account of an alternative way to punish. I learned much from his critical engagement with my work, and I'm in his debt for reminding me that race matters. This book is not only important for how it deals with punishment, but it also should be read as a model for the writing of Christian social thought."
Christopher D. Marshall
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
"Clearly written, persuasively argued, and profoundly grounded in social reality, Good Punishment?sets forth an authentically Christian social ethics of punishment that wrestles specifically with the downstream damage caused by society's growing reliance on mass imprisonment. An outstanding example of Christian ethics confronting one of the creeping, nay galloping, evils of our day."
"I am hoping that James Logan's book will begin a badly needed discussion of the ethics of punishment. Logan gives a disturbing account of imprisonment in contemporary America: the purposes it is officially meant to serve, its manifest failure to serve those purposes, the people who suffer directly from imprisonment, the people who suffer indirectly from it, and the people who benefit from it. He also expounds a Mennonite view of what our practice of punishment should look like and, along the way, enters into an interesting critical dialogue with Stanley Hauerwas. An important contribution to theological ethics."
Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection
"Powerfully narrates the prison boom phenomenon in the United States and candidly lays bare factors behind prison economics. . . . Though the vision of the book is theological, its potential political realization is not far-fetched. The book exudes the hope that social restructuring is possible. . . . Highly recommended for theologians, activists, law makers, and those engaged in prison ministry."