Franklin E Zimring, The Insidious Momentum of American Mass Incarceration

Published date01 January 2024
AuthorThomas Guiney
Date01 January 2024
Subject MatterBook Reviews
of incarceration,they argue, becomes the most pressing criminal justice policy imperative,
leaving untouched the question of why such a devastating punishment is so easily and readily
meted out.On this particular week, in which the power of Serials deep-dive into Syeds
case has been amply demonstrated, this critique reads somewhat unfair: must everyone
who illuminates a particular injustice also provide a multidimensional critique of all injus-
tices? And yet, Kaplan and LaChance remind us that lowbrow has not cornered the
market on tropes and spectacle, making me think that TV perspectives on crime (both f‌ic-
tional and nonf‌ictional) have shifted largely to suit the tastes of the audience. The 1990s
public, clamoring for law-and-order content lionizing police and prosecutors, was rewarded
with dozens of Law and Order franchise seasons following a predictable model. Todays
audience, galvanized by protests against police outreachand m uchmore aware of the inequal-
ity dimensions of law enforcement, is rewarded with MakingaMurderer,Serial,andtheirilk.
As I was f‌inishing Crimesploitation, I chanced upon an interesting episode of the CBS
show The Good Fight. Liz Reddick, the managing partner of a large African-American
BigLaw f‌irm, is approached by a plucky documentarian who wants to interview her as
apowerful Black Woman; gradually, though, Liz comes to realize that the documen-
tarian is trying to create a crimesploitation f‌ilm that argues that Liz contributed, in her
previous job as a prosecutor, to a wrongful conviction. It almost feels as if Liz (the f‌ic-
tional character!) benef‌itted from reading Kaplan and LaChances book: she realizes
that the documentarian is focusing on visual evidence of high emotional valence and is
trying to paint a Manichean picture of the defendants trial, casting Liz as the villain.
To me, this attests to the importance of encouraging not only academics, but viewers
of all stripes and political aff‌iliations, to adopt Kaplan and LaChances critical perspec-
tive and keen eye for narrative tropes and employ it to all that we see and consume.
Hadar Aviram
Hadar Aviram
University of California, Hastings College of the Law
Hay D (2011 [1975]) Property, authority and the criminal law. In: Hay D (ed) Albions fatal
tree: crime and society in eighteenth-century England. London: Verso, pp. 1763.
Franklin E Zimring, The Insidious Momentum of American Mass
Incarceration, Oxford University Press: New York, 2020; 248 pp. : 978-
0-197-513170, £25.49 (hbk)
Few issues have received greater scholarly attention than the American experiment with mass
incarceration. Ever since this trend has been subject to systematic description and analysis an
210 Punishment & Society 26(1)

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