What's Prison For?: Punishment and Rehabilitation in the Age of Mass Incarceration


Product Details

$16.00  $14.88
Columbia Global Reports
Publish Date
5.0 X 7.4 X 0.6 inches | 0.4 pounds

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About the Author

Bill Keller is founding editor-in-chief of the Marshall Project, an independent nonprofit news organization focused on crime and punishment in the U.S. He previously spent 30 years at the New York Times as a correspondent, editor, and op-ed columnist. As a foreign correspondent, he reported on the collapse of the Soviet Union, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1989. Following Moscow, he became chief of the Times bureau in Johannesburg, covering the end of white rule in South Africa. During his eight years as executive editor, from 2003 to 2011, the Times won 18 Pulitzer Prizes. He lives in Southampton, New York.


"Keller's smart, short new book tries to explain how America became so addicted to mass incarceration, and how we might finally reform a system which houses a disproportionally Black and brown population." --Guardian

"Having spent years immersed in prisons as a reporter and teacher, Keller offers a blunt indictment of our broken prison system, while also pointing out real possibilities for reform." --Commonweal

"Bill Keller has done something well nigh impossible: written a pithy, engaging book about prison reform, with flashes of wit and memorable quotes from both those incarcerated and their jailers.... Keller is refreshingly optimistic about the direction of prison reform, in ways small and large, and by book's end you feel as invested in better prisons as if you yourself might do time someday." --Air Mail

"It's rare to finish the last page of a book on the criminal legal system with hope, and one does walk away with a sense that even just one person can positively impact lives of those behind bars. While the question of what prisons are for can't be answered by any one text, Keller's contribution to the conversation is an important one." --Brennan Center for Justice

"Readers might close What's Prison For? reminded of the need to find less retributive ways to address the harms and pain imposed on crime victims.... Incarcerated people are people. Bill Keller reminds us that we must treat them that way, both to honor their humanity and to honor our own." --Washington Monthly

"Makes the case that governments routinely squander the opportunity to improve the prospects of people they view as dangerous enough to lock up for years or decades." --Reason

"A brisk and impassioned indictment of the U.S. prison system.... Detailed and empathetic, this is an airtight case for reform." --Publishers Weekly

"America's unjust system of mass incarceration tears families apart, costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year, and doesn't make our communities any safer. Bill Keller has been shining a light at our broken criminal justice system for years, and powerfully argues that America can and must do better. To do nothing or say nothing only reinforces the current nightmare. I hope you read this book, learn, and in some way, join the growing bipartisan efforts to bring about urgently needed change." --Senator Cory Booker

"A compassionate argument about why any reckoning with mass incarceration should transform imprisonment itself.... A strong single-volume response to a seemingly intractable national dilemma." --Kirkus Reviews

"A learned, lucid primer on the American prison system--its history and particularly on the best ideas for reforming it. Broadly sourced, intelligently curated, wisely explained." --Ted Conover, author of Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing