Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies | Alexander Street
Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies

Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies

Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies is a database curated by an international board of advisors and part of the Global Issues Library. Organized around a selection of key historical and contemporary events and mixing a case and thematic approach, this resource will look at the history of incarceration in the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and others. The main themes and events related to mass incarceration and the history of prisons are easily explored by providing multiple perspectives and points of entries: court cases; prison experience: first-hand accounts; law and government documents; rehabilitation; training materials; policing and law; prison and identity and theory. 

According to the ACLU, despite making up close to 5% of the global population, the U.S. has nearly 25% of the world’s prison population. Since 1970, our incarcerated population has increased by 700% – 2.3 million people are in jail and prison today”. 

What is the history of prison and punishment in the United States and globally? How does the United States compare to other nations? What are the major events reflecting mass incarceration and prison policies?  

Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies is a curated database seeking to provide resources to answer these questions. The database is organized around a selection of key historical and contemporary events and themes related to Global Incarceration and Prison Studies, bringing together 100,000 pages of text (archival materials and selected primary sources, reference materials, reports, and monographs), 150 hours of video (including documentaries and news footage), 1,000 links to websites, and 500 images. 

As part of Global Issues Library, this research, teaching, and vocational database will look at the main themes and events related to mass incarceration and the history of prisons by providing multiple perspectives and points of entries: Court cases, Prison Experience: first -hand accounts; law and government documents; Rehabilitation; Training materials; Policing and Law; Prison and Identity; Theory. 

Mixing a case and thematic approach, this resource will look at the carceral situation in the United States but also in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Canada and others. 

Sample Events and Areas 

  • History of the prison 
  • Gangs  
  • War on Drugs 
  • Riots 
  • Prison industries
  • Parole 
  • Prison Labor
  • Loss of Rights 
  • Brown v. Plata
  • Halden prison (Nordic exceptionalism) 
  • Concentration camps (cf. Boers, Nazi, Gulag system)
  • Alcatraz 
  • Juveniles
  • Sing Sing 
  • Rehabilitation programs
  • Rikers 
  • Prison art and art programs
  • Exoneration (DNA and other) 


  • Causes of mass incarceration
  • Economics of mass incarceration 
  • Conditions of confinement
  • Death penalty 
  • Non-punitive detention
  • Prison identity and culture 
  • Reentry
  • Famous prisons and prisoners 
  • Prison in popular culture
  • Prison policy 

Sample Content and Partners 

We are partnering with archives, publishers, and video distributors to provide a variety of angles on the key issues in Mass Incarceration and Prison Studies.

Archives, Foundations, and Rare Books 

  • Senate House, University of London
    Selections on the history of prisons and incarceration from the Bromhead Library Special Collections; Family Welfare Association Library Special Collections 
  • National Archives Records Administration
    Records of the National Recovery Administration, 1927 - ca. 1939 (RG9). Records Relating to Prison Labor, 1934 - 1935 (PI 44 334) 
  • Russell Sage Foundation
    Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? 



    Prisons and Prison Systems: A Global Encyclopedia 
  • Bristol University Press 
    Reshaping Probation and Prisons 
  • Fordham University Press 
    Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration 
  • L’Harmattan 
    Le Prisonnier : Récit d'une Incarcération 
    Vivre avec la Prison : des Familles Face à L'Incarcération d'un Proche 
    Une Mère en Prison ou L'Apprentissage de la Résistance : Uruguay 1972-1976 : Récit 
    Les Usages Sociaux du Théâtre Hors ses Murs 
  • National Academy Press 
    The Growth of Incarceration in the United States 
  • New York University Press 
    Downsizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration 
    5 Grams: Crack Cocaine, Rap Music, and the War on Drugs 
  • Oxford University Press 
    Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality 
    Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide Between America and Europe 
    Concentration Camps: A Short History 
  • PM Press 
    Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women 
  • Routledge 
    Contrasts in Punishment: An Explanation of Anglophone Excess and Nordic Exceptionalism 
  • Temple University Press 
    The Disenfranchisement of Ex-Felons 
  • University of Bristol. Policy Press 
    Imprisonment Worldwide: The Current Situation And An Alternative Future 
    Competition for Prisons: Public Or Private? 
    Getting Out and Staying Out: Results Of The Prisoner Resettlement Pathfinders 
  • University of California Press 
    Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States 


  • BBC Worldwide 
    Miami Mega-Jail, Part 1 & 2; Tough Justice: Texas Style 
  • Daedalus Productions 
    Through the Wire; Lock Up: The Prisoners of Rikers Island 
  • Music Video Distributors 
    Not for Rent! 
  • Parralel Lines 
    Thanatos Rx 
  • TVF International 
    He Didn't Do It 
    Three Sons Behind Bars 
  • Windrose 
    Behind the Bars 
  • L’Harmattan 
    La Récidive en Question 

Editorial Board

Hannah ElsisiLecturer in Modern Middle East HistoryKing’s College London 
Julie Murphy ErfaniAssociate ProfessorArizona State University 
Catherine FillouxPlaywright, Social Justice 
Amy S. GreenChairperson & Associate ProfessorJohn Jay U.  School of Criminal Justice 
Anna GundersonProfessor of Political ScienceLouisiana State University 
Vivian D. NixonExecutive DirectorCollege & Community Fellowship 
James OlesonAssociate ProfessorUniversity of Auckland  
Andrew TaylorResearch ScientistResearch Analyst at Vera Institute of Justice