American Prisons and Jails
An Encyclopedia of Controversies and Trends [2 volumes]
by Vidisha Barua Worley and Robert M. Worley, Editors
December 2018, 793pp, 7x10
2 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-500-8
$208, £160, 181€, A285
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-501-5
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The United States accounts for five percent of the world’s total population—and 25 percent of all people incarcerated across the globe.

This two-volume encyclopedia provides a comprehensive and authoritative examination of the history and current character of American prisons and jails and their place in the U.S. corrections system.

This encyclopedia provides a rigorous and comprehensive summary of correctional systems and practices and their evolution throughout US history.

Topics include sentencing norms and contemporary developments; differences between local jails and prisons and regional, state, and federal systems; violent and nonviolent inmate populations; operations of state and federal prisons, including well-known prisons such as ADX-Florence, Alcatrez, Attica, Leavenworth, and San Quentin; privately run, for-profit prisons as well as the companies that run them; inmate culture, including prisoner-generated social hierarchies, prisoner slang, gangs, drug use, and violence; prison trends and statistics, including racial, ethnic, age, gender, and educational breakdowns; the death penalty; and post-incarceration outcomes, including recidivism.

The set showcases contributions from some of the leading scholars in the fields of correctional systems and practices and will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about American prisons, jails, and community corrections.


  • Contains approximately 225 entries, comprehensively examining all aspects of American prisons and jails
  • Includes an Annotated List of Relevant Organizations and Institutes for ease of reference
  • Provides a chronology of important developments related to prisons and jails in US history
  • Lists print, electronic, and multimedia resources in a bibliography for readers interested in exploring the topic further
Vidisha Barua Worley, PhD, Esquire, is associate professor of criminal justice at Lamar University, in Beaumont, Texas; former contributing editor and columnist with the Criminal Law Bulletin; founding member of the Institute for Legal Studies in Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University; associate book review editor of Theory in Action; and a licensed attorney in India and New York. Worley's research areas include police use of tasers and stun guns, the death penalty, prison rape, correctional officer deviance, inappropriate relationships between inmates and correctional officers, cyberbullying and sexting, ethical issues in criminal justice, and terrorism.

Robert M. Worley, PhD, is associate professor of criminal justice and director of criminal justice programs at Lamar University, in Beaumont, Texas. A former correctional officer and editor of ACJS Today, he currently serves as associate editor of Deviant Behavior, book review editor of Theory in Action; and a member of the Institute for Legal Studies in Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University. He has published more than 30 articles in journals including Deviant Behavior, Security Journal, Criminal Justice Review, Journal of Criminal Justice Education, American Journal of Criminal Justice, and Criminal Law Bulletin.


"There is a great need for trustworthy material such as this given the human and financial resources devoted to penitentiaries and the thousands of lives they affect on a daily basis. A strong starting point for researchers and readers."—Library Journal, June 1, 2019

"This two-volume set covers a wide assortment of topics... the collection provides a respectable array of topics largely related American to prison and jails in one convenient set."—ARBA, March 1, 2019

"Though focusing on the US, the encyclopedia also includes a handful of entries on prisons in other countries (China, England, Peru). This set serves as a good introduction to prisons and jails."—Choice, July 1, 2019

"...article-specific bibliographies aid readers whose curiosity extends beyond prisons’ locked gates."—Booklist, May 15, 2019

American Prisons and Jails: An Encyclopedia of Controversies and Trends is a well-organized and clearly written overview of salient issues and developments in the field of corrections. The United States contains about a 5% of the world’s population but about 25% of the world’s inmates. Institutional corrections is a major dimension of the criminal justice system, requiring immense governmental resources— in the U.S., approximately $80 billion dollars annually. Institutional corrections is an important and complex topic, and important information regarding it needs to be presented in a clear and concise manner. Drs. Vidisha Barua Worley and Robert Worley, Editors, have successfully accomplished this major task. Both editors are accomplished correctional researchers, resulting in the creation of a well-rounded and thorough encyclopedia. In addition, they have compiled information from a wide array of other expert contributors who also research prisons and/or jails, resulting in a comprehensive publication that significantly adds to the corrections literature. The entries in this encyclopedia not only cover the major areas and issues in corrections, but they are also well-written and packed with vital information. This publication is a must read for correctional policymakers and practitioners, as well as students in the field of criminal justice. I highly recommend American Prisons and Jails: An Encyclopedia of Controversies and Trends.”—Eric G. Lambert, Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada, Reno

"Vidisha Barau Worley and Robert M. Worley have compiled an outstanding Encyclopedia of American Prisons and Jails. They carefully document the wide range of issues, controversies and trends faced by these important institutions. The book makes important contributions that will inform both senior scholars and generalist readers. The breadth and depth of material covered is indeed impressive. The volumes promise to contribute to informed debates about policy and practice in corrections."—Scott H. Decker, Foundation Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University

"An amazing compendium, American Prisons and Jails: An Encyclopedia of Controversies and Trends offers readers the opportunity to appreciate the vast scope of theory and research on prisons and jails in America. From accounts of solitary confinement, which occured early in the American corrections landscape, to those of privitization, readers learn about marked continuities in approaches to and debates about how best to punish and make society a safer place. This book will be an essential reference for scholars, students, and policymakers for years to come."—Daniel P. Mears, Mark C. Stafford Professor of Criminology, Florida State University

"Corrections has been and will always be controversial. This collection of readings presents for both the novice and experienced students of criminology and criminal justice a succinct summary of issues facing correctional executives, staff, researchers and policy makers. The vast array of articles provides the reader with an appreciation of the historical development of corrections from the first correctional facility in Pennsylvania in the 1700s through recent efforts to downsize correctional populations and rethink prisoner reentry. The authors’ thoughtful discussion of United States Supreme Court decisions encapsulate the changing role of the federal government in regulating inmate civil rights. Corrections has become increasingly complex and the editors have done an excellent job of pulling together the best researchers in our field to summarize the ever changing culture of prisons, probation, and parole."—W. Wesley Johnson, PhD, Professor, Criminal Justice, School of Criminal Justice, University of Southern Mississippi

"I heartily recommend this edited two-volume encyclopedia of prison and jail topics to libraries, students, academics and practitioners desirous of a quick and comprehensive treatment and understanding of corrections in the United States. The expertise and knowledge of esteemed correctional scholars, practitioners and graduate students was marshalled by the editors to write the entries that cover a myriad of content areas on corrections; The in-depth entries span historic, topical, academic, legal and organizational subjects, with some coverage of corrections internationally as well. The reader will be hard put to name a correctional topic that is not contained and explicated in these well- written volumes."—Mary K. Stohr, Professor, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Washington State University

"American Prisons and Jails: An Encyclopedia of Controversies and Trends delivers on both its title and its subtitle, offering a scholarly look inside contemporary American jails and prisons while also tackling a host of controversial issues and ideas surrounding incarceration. In this way it embodies the best of what an encyclopedia can be—a provocative blend of comprehensive coverage and critical insight—and in exploring the past and present of American incarceration suggests something of its future as well."—Jeff Ferrell, Author of Drift: Illicit Mobility and Uncertain Knowledge
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