Book Report: Going Up the River Travels in a Prison Nation

Pages: 4 (1070 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

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Hallinan, J.T. (2003) Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation. Random House: New York.

Joseph Hallinan is a Pulitzer-winning journalist who writes about crime and punishment in the United States and is a reporter for Wall Street Journal. In Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation, he looks at the phenomenon of prison-industrial complex and the corruption of the correctional system. Hallinan argues that today the purpose of the prison is not to rehabilitate but to make profit out of it. How did this happen? Consider that if the American prison population in 1980s was 500,000, by 1995 it was 1,500,000 and by 2000 it surpassed 2,000,000. The United States is by far the biggest incarcerator in the world, surpassing even Russia and China. Every week, the prison population increases by 1,000 inmates -- which may fill up two prisons. And this prison population surge is not a reflection of the rising crime rate. In fact, the crime rate from 1995 to 2000 decreased by 16%.

It took Hallinan around four years to write this book, as he travelled from prison to prison although spending most of his time in Texas, the state that locks up and executes more people than any other state in the country. For example, in the year 1995 (when George W. Bush was the governor of the state), a new prison was being opened almost every week. And between 1991 and 1996, Texas built more prisons than the Federal government had in the last 200 years. But Hallinan has seen the surge in incarceration and institutionalized brutality of the system across the country. He tells in grisly details of the torture, sadism, and sexual mistreatment prisons are subjected to -- by inmates and guards alike. In one prison, he sees prisoners with their arms broken and eyes gouged out, while in another he sees guards placing bets in so-called "human cockfights" by gang members who were pitted against each other. "The level of violence," Hallinan says, "and fear and degradation that permeates most prisons makes a luxury of everything but survival" (p. 216).

So, why does the prison population boom at the time when crime rates fall? Hallinan's answer is unsettling: it is profitable. He notes that the private prison system has been growing ever since the first private prison was opened in 1983. Telephone companies such as AT&T make a billion dollars by monopolizing the prison phone system, while Procter & Gamble and makers of shampoos also seek opportunities in the prison market. Large industries are looking for cheap labor provided by inmates, while local communities, looking for working-class job opportunities, try to get prisons built in their communities. The largest private prison company Corrections Corporation America had its stocks soared by 1,000% after the opening of the first private prison, making the company's owners very rich men. When there is so much profit out of expanding prison population, why care about decreasing its number? Indeed, Hallinan argues that, although rehabilitation programs still exist, Americans are increasingly of the opinion that prisoners are in prison not for rehabilitation but to be punished.

In this book, Hallinan raises important questions that cannot be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Book Report:

APA Format

Going Up the River Travels in a Prison Nation.  (2011, November 6).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Going Up the River Travels in a Prison Nation."  6 November 2011.  Web.  17 July 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Going Up the River Travels in a Prison Nation."  November 6, 2011.  Accessed July 17, 2019.